Policy Brief – Hydrogen, a new commodity, a ‘magic’ energy carrier, or a prescriber of demanding public policies?

By Antoine Goutaland and Joël Ruet

“Hydrogen” is seeing its industrial and energy uses differ while its synthesis processes abound. But in reality, there are hydrogens whose promoters constitute a heterogeneous club with more or less convergent interests, present at different geographical, sectoral and temporal levels. A unified and stabilised ecosystem does not exist at this stage, and due to the characteristics of the molecule, we defend that this unique and global ecosystem will not be emerge.

Green hydrogen remains a decisive tool for the energy transition. It has the capacity to better store, use, and valorise renewables, and, more generally, offers an additional flexibility option to the great energy systemic overhaul necessary for the ecological transition.

At present, the World Hydrogen Council has an interest in showing a united front to policy makers, in order to broaden the base of what has not, so far, really been a “sector”. But behind this homogeneous ‘narrative’, industrial and political battles are being fought.

Hydrogen will contribute to the slow change in perspective of ecology: in parallel with the systemic question of transitions and trajectories, there will be a return, not of the micro-economic question (price formation on markets), but rather of the macro-economic policy of natural resources, an all-encompassing problem, going from a national accounting of resources to a geostrategy of resources.

Read the Full Brief (in French): 2021-07-07-PB_Hydrogene


Key points

  • Hydrogen is not a commodity and will probably not become one. However, this by-product can play a key role in the decarbonization of certain heavy industries or energy uses.
  • Hydrogen is not oil, therefore the previous economic model of this sector is not necessarily adapted to hydrogen. It is consequently necessary to question the assumptions and cognitive habits acquired, as well as to objectively analyse the accelerators at hand, and in particular the territories, that are determining factors.
  • Hydrogen opens the Pandora’s box of the industrial economy: are forced technological oligopolies coming? Will they overlap or will they transcend geopolitical competition? Will certain coal basins impose themselves by a sort of return of history? Will industrial parks turn demand to their advantage?
  • The electrification of the world, mobilizing hydrogen, and associated with “natural” uses of hydrogen where electrification is not relevant, is compatible with an explosion of energy transformations, alongside a decrease in CO2 emi
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