BusinessDay

With billions of research dollars, hydrogen energy could soon rival fossil fuel

Some countries are pouring billions of dollars into hydrogen energy initiatives to meet ambitious decarbonization goals thereby quickening a global shift away from fossil fuel, a situation that presents a threat to oil producers like Nigeria.

The future of hydrogen energy became clearer at the end of last year as some experts believe that hydrogen could soon develop into a globally-traded energy source, just like oil and gas.

“The market for green hydrogen is expected to grow exponentially in the coming decade,” Ademuyiwa Adegun, an Abuja-based gas commercial advisor, said. “The world will not wait for Nigeria.”

London–based global information provider, IHS Markit, reports that hydrocarbon exporting countries in the Middle East which are well endowed with high solar insolation; coal-rich countries like Australia, gas-rich countries like Russia as well as highly industrialized energy-importing countries in Asia and Europe are all showing a keen interest in hydrogen.

“2021 will be the first year of the golden age of hydrogen,” Nobuo Tanaka, former executive director of the International Energy Agency said.

Germany recently committed to invest about $10.2 billion in hydrogen technology over the next two decades, and has also published a national hydrogen strategy consisting of 38 steps on the production of hydrogen from renewable energy resources.

Seeking to become carbon-neutral by 2050, Germany aims to have 5GW of hydrogen production by 2030 with another 5GW a decade later.

The European Union in July approved a hydrogen strategy that calls for a $430 billion investment in green hydrogen by 2030.

Russia has also approved a Hydrogen Energy Development Plan.

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However, Japan has emerged as a hotspot for the zero-emission hydrogen economy of the future, a vision shared both by the government and its world-leading auto industry Toyota, who are both making a huge bet that hydrogen, not batteries or fossil fuel will provide power for the emission-free cars of the future.

Along with electric vehicles, China sees green hydrogen as a potential way of decarbonizing transportation. The country’s targets include 5,000 fuel-cell vehicles by 2020 and 1 million by 2030.

Other countries with huge hydrogen commitments include Australia, China, France, Norway, South Korea, and the UK, among others.

A report published by Norway’s consultancy DNV GL said half of senior oil and gas professionals expect hydrogen to be a significant part of the energy mix by 2030, with a fifth of surveyed oil and gas companies already active in the hydrogen market.

The above development not only put Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, in a precarious situation but also exposes how the world is gradually turning away from crude oil to gas to drive their economies.

“Nigeria needs a national strategy either through the production of hydrogen from fossil fuels as a short-term measure or developing a hydrogen infrastructure or ultimately clean production of hydrogen from renewable energy sources,” Adegun said.

In 2021, countries are already making green hydrogen a priority for their energy needs, with lots of costs attributed to the country’s natural resources, such as Chile, which is investing in hydrogen infrastructure due to its optimal wind resources.

Wind energy development in Nigerian is still at an infant stage and the few wind energy technologies found in the country are mainly windmills which are used for irrigation water pumping in some rural communities in the northern regions.

Some studies have opined that if 1percent of Nigeria landmass is used for solar PV electricity generation, it is capable of producing around 207,000 GWh of electricity per year which is more than enough to satisfy Nigeria’s energy requirements. Despite the high potential, there is no grid connected solar plant in the country currently.

One way or another, most experts say Nigeria must face up to a future without oil which the country can choose through voluntarily transition from a petro-state to a more balanced and productive economy, or through dragging, kicking and screaming, into the post-oil age.

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