The future of Hydrogen energy – Will Hydrogen be the next big player within renewable energy?

5 min

The Renewable Energy and Clean Technology sector continues to experience growth, development, and innovation. Targets have been set around the world to reduce emissions and lower carbon footprint to create a more energy efficient and greener future. As we move through the energy transition process, there are huge investments and initiatives in place to utilise natural elements and energy sources to create more sustainable energy. Hydrogen energy is increasingly being discussed and considered as the next big step in renewable energy advancements, with the scope for it to contribute significantly to decarbonize our future.

Hydrogen contributes to almost three quarters of the earths mass and is a key clean energy source which can be produced from a range of sources such as, natural gases, solar, wind, nuclear power and biogas. It is predicted that the development and growth of hydrogen energy will result in the creation of 30 million jobs and account for around 18% of global energy by 2050 according to the International Hydrogen Energy Commission. In February 2021, over 30 countries created a hydrogen energy roadmap to demonstrate their commitment to develop hydrogen energy for the future.

A lot of countries are beginning to heavily invest in hydrogen energy to get ahead of the game and become an early adopter, with the recognition that it’s not only positive for the overall economy and will boost jobs across all areas, but it also significantly contributes to reducing air pollution and combatting climate change.

Many global organisations have been eager to bring hydrogen to the forefront and huge projects have already kick-started worldwide. The UK government has confirmed this year the Net Zero Hydrogen Fund worth up to £240 million to fund projects developing low-carbon hydrogen projects.

Some of the latest large-scale projects announced this year include:

Shell – Netherlands: First major scale green hydrogen project (200MW)

Green Hydrogen International: 60GW renewable H2 project in Texas to be powered by wind and solar

BP Plc: Powered by wind and solar in Western Australia (26GW)

HyDeal Ambition: Hydrogen energy project in Spain (67GW)

There are many elements and stakeholders involved in the process of creating an efficient and cost-effective hydrogen energy infrastructure, and the key to increasing the scale of hydrogen energy is to build a robust supply chain. The end user of energy will continue to grow as hydrogen becomes more readily available across sectors for both private and commercial use. Not only does the production of hydrogen need to be considered, but also the storage and transportation while considering the sectors and customers who will benefit from hydrogen energy use going forward.

Producing Hydrogen – Green versus Blue Hydrogen

Hydrogen production can be costly and a potentially volatile element to work with. It needs to be separated from other elements through the process of either electrolysis or steam methane reforming. Here comes the distinction between green and blue hydrogen.

Hydrogen energy is only green when the energy used in the production process for electrolysis comes from a natural source such as wind, water or solar. If hydrogen energy is produced through steam methane reforming, it produces blue hydrogen, over 90% of hydrogen is produced through this process. Green hydrogen is the best method for sustainability but is significantly more expensive to produce in comparison to blue hydrogen.

There are questions around the differences between green and blue hydrogen and comparing costs, efficiency and sustainability. Ultimately, green hydrogen is the best in terms of sustainability as it is produced from renewable energy sources, however it is significantly more expensive than blue hydrogen produced from natural gas, therefore blue hydrogen currently provides a lower carbon fuel generation at a much lower cost than that of green hydrogen.

Storing Hydrogen

There are large areas of research and investment into the storage of hydrogen from two perspectives. The first being short term storage solutions to bridge the gap between hydrogen production and the demand for energy. The second, is to consider longer term storage solutions for hydrogen. This would give the opportunity to scale up the production of hydrogen without the need to transport and use the energy immediately. It will open increased opportunities for production, transportation, and energy usage. Companies such as Engie are developing means to store hydrogen at a wider scale in underground salt caverns.

Transporting Hydrogen

Given the nature of hydrogen, transportation can pose challenge and potential risk. Not only is it costly to produce hydrogen, but there are also significant costs with transportation. Even though hydrogen is being utilised in various sectors, it is still in the early stages of adoption when it comes to transporting and shipping on a larger scale. Considerations need to be given to the efficiency of shipping to ensure the transportation has a low carbon footprint.

What sectors can benefit from hydrogen energy?

Although hydrogen energy is currently being used on a small scale across the globe, as it’s still a relatively new means of energy, it is already proving to be a viable energy source; from powering transport in big cities with taxies and buses, to private vehicle use and heavy industrial vehicles.

There is scope for hydrogen to be used on a much wider scale in the coming decades and the industry areas set to benefit the most are those that are difficult to decarbonise. These include Glass and Steel Manufacturing, Whiskey Distilleries, Car Manufacturing, Chemical Manufacturing and the Heavy Construction Equipment industry.

There are businesses within the Heavy Construction Equipment industry heavily investing in developing hydrogen energy and technology. JCB have pledged to invest £100 million to ramp up the scale of hydrogen energy across all functions to lower carbon emissions. JCB predominantly use diesel for a large proportion of their machinery and vehicles, with some electric models in action. They are in the process of developing prototypes to be fuelled by hydrogen energy and hope to be utilising hydrogen on a much wider scale as we near 2030.

Testing, Inspection & Certification

With the advancements in renewable energy, new energy sources and evolving processes, there is an increased demand within Testing, Inspection and Certification. With new products brought to market, the safety and compliance must be reviewed to ensure regulations are met and risk assessments are carried out. Specifically working with Hydrogen can pose risks due to the volatile nature of the element so this stage in the process is crucial and one that will generate high numbers of jobs across renewable energy and testing, inspection and certification.

The Future of Hydrogen and the Impact on Talent

There are many goals and initiatives in place to facilitate a future with cheaper and greener hydrogen. The hydrogen market is one of the fastest areas of growth within renewable energy across the globe, with huge projects underway in Europe, America, Asia and the Middle East.

With Hydrogen set to grow in scale over the next decade, there will become an increasing need to attract talent to drive new processes and innovation forward. There will be growth in all areas related to Hydrogen with both specialist technical and engineering roles, through to commercial, sales and leadership positions. Now is the time for businesses to resource plan and establish the talent they will need to embrace pending developments within Hydrogen energy and the allied industries they will need to consider for talent attraction.

At CSG Talent, we’re already witnessing rapid growth across all areas of renewable energy. The Renewable Energy team play a key role in securing the right talent to drive sustainable energy solutions for some of the biggest global players within renewable energy and we are already experiencing demand for roles within the hydrogen energy sector. In particular, the renewable energy recruitment team at CSG Talent are seeing increased demand for talent within Research and Development, Product and Commercial/Strategy functions.

If you’re keen to explore further insights on Renewable Energy and Clean Technology, click here. Alternatively, if you would like to have a conversation with a member of our expert team to discuss your hiring strategy or current talent attraction requirements, please get in touch.