New paper: Couple green hydrogen with hydropower to create a net zero future

Produced using decarbonised electricity and water through a process called electrolysis, green hydrogen is set to be an important component of the transition to net-zero carbon economies.  

IHA has today released a research and policy paper, ‘The green hydrogen revolution: hydropower’s transformative role’, which outlines how hydropower could be pivotal in supporting growth in green hydrogen.

While most hydrogen is currently produced from fossil fuels, projections suggest renewable and low carbon green hydrogen could grow dramatically and play a key role on the path to net-zero. In its Transforming Energy Scenario published in its Global Renewables Outlook in 2020, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says green hydrogen could supply up to 8 per cent of overall global energy demand by 2050, with more recent studies suggesting it could be even higher.  

As the leading source of renewable electricity globally, hydropower is well suited to producing green hydrogen and has played a leading role in this over the past 100 years.  

Alex Campbell, IHA’s Head of Policy and Research, said: “Ambitious growth in green hydrogen will significantly increase global demand for clean electricity sources such as hydropower.

“Looking ahead hydropower could potentially supply at least 1,000 TWh of the additional electricity demand required in IRENA’s 2050 scenario. For even more ambitious scenarios that seek to limit the increase in global temperatures below 1.5C, the likely demand on hydropower would be greater.  

“To realise this potential, policy and regulatory frameworks must be updated to deploy hydrogen services and infrastructure at the scale now required.’

The business-led Hydrogen Council says hydrogen could supply up to 18 per cent of overall global energy demand by 2050, saving 6 gigatonnes of annual emissions and potentially creating a US$2.5 trillion per annum industry.  

In its newly published paper, IHA calls on governments and industry to:

- Develop enabling policies and financial incentives to stimulate demand for green hydrogen, scale-up projects and reduce technology costs.

- Support decarbonisation of power grids, and establish global certification systems that credit green hydrogen produced from clean electricity sources, including hydropower.

- Recognise and support the role of hydropower capacity, alongside other renewables, for green hydrogen production. A balanced portfolio leads to a more secure and sustainable energy mix, and helps ensure high utilisation factors for H2 electrolysis plants.

- Create markets and policy frameworks that reward flexible electricity supply and demand on the grid.

- Scale-up investment into new renewable power capacity, as soon as possible, to progress grid decarbonisation and cost reductions for green hydrogen.

Read the report

About the International Hydropower Association (IHA)

IHA is a non-profit membership organisation committed to sustainable hydropower. Its mission is to advance sustainable hydropower by building and sharing knowledge on its role in renewable energy systems, responsible freshwater management and climate change solutions. IHA achieves this through monitoring the hydropower sector, building an open, innovative and trusted platform for knowledge, and advancing strategies that strengthen performance.

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