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New IRENA report: ‘Hydrogen from Renewable Power’

Launched during IRENA’s Innovation Week, the agency’s latest technology outlook ‘Hydrogen from Renewable Power outlines the potentially pivotal role hydrogen may play in a deeper energy transition. And, while hydrogen is already widely used in facilities such as chemicals plants and refineries, by switching the fuel used to produce it from hydrocarbons to renewable electricity, it can become a carrier of renewable energy, complementing the role solar and wind play in power production

To achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement, substantial greenhouse gas emission reductions are required across all sectors. The share of renewable energy in global final energy consumption needs to increase from 18% today to 65% in 2050. Yet, one-third of global energy-related emissions come from economic sectors, where currently no viable economic alternative to fossil fuels exists. IRENA’s report shows how hydrogen from renewable sources could be a critical element of a strategy to fill this gap.

The publication provides an overview of the areas in which renewables-based hydrogen could enable a deeper energy transition. The first section outlines the challenges of the energy transition and areas in which hydrogen is already used as energy source and what role it could play in other areas. The subsequent sections address: current technology status and developments; hydrogen applications in end-use sectors; and the creation of hydrogen supply chains. The final section develops recommendations for policy makers.

The technical sections explain the advantages of hydrogen as a fuel, including: providing high-grade heat; addressing a range of energy needs that direct electrification cannot meet; and replacing fossil fuel-based feedstocks, such as natural gas, in high-emission applications of the industry sector.

The report then outlines the most established technology options for producing hydrogen from renewable energy sources, including water electrolysis and steam reforming of biomethane with or without carbon capture and storage. This is followed by a detailed discussion how the hydrogen generated can be used to decarbonize the transport and industry sectors or as a replacement for natural gas for energy storage and distribution using existing infrastructure.