G7 unveils controversial ‘hydrogen action pact’ to tackle climate crisis and Russia’s dependence on gas

The Group of Seven (G7) industrialized economies have launched a new hydrogen pact to accelerate the development of blue and green hydrogen and hydrogen2 derivatives such as ammonia, in the hope that they can play a role in tackling the ongoing climate crisis and the energy crisis exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The Hydrogen Action Pact (G7-HAP) commits the G7 countries – Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy, France and Canada – to accelerate the development of blue and green hydrogen and “Power-to-X” in difficult areas. reduce sectors, accelerating regulatory frameworks and common standards on H2and identify and fill existing “gaps” in hydrogen scale-up in G7 countries and elsewhere.

“Accelerating global markets and supply chains for low-carbon, renewable hydrogen and its derivatives is a key step towards fully decarbonising our economies,” said climate and energy ministers. energy of the G7 in a 39-page press release.

“This need has become even more prevalent given the current geopolitical unrest and disruption, which has resulted in record high energy prices and a serious risk to our energy security.”

The G7-HAP also confirms the strong financial commitment of nations to the ramp-up of the blue and green hydrogen market, as well as the exchange of best practices on sustainable H2 production and ongoing dialogue on the emerging geopolitical implications of a global hydrogen economy – but delivers little of the “action” promised in its name.

And controversially, the G7 also pledged to “support the role of low-carbon, renewable hydrogen and its derivatives in the decarbonization of natural gas infrastructure and for zero-thermal electricity generation.” emission”.

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The term “low carbon hydrogen” usually refers to blue H2 derivative of fossil gas with incomplete carbon capture and storage, its inclusion in a document stating that reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas “is of particular urgency”, could raise some concerns. eyebrows.

The same goes for singling out the use of hydrogen in natural gas infrastructure – the pipelines that many believe don’t have a major role to play in decarbonizing heating, fuel’s primary role. today, due to the expense and technical challenges that would be involved.

Supporting hydrogen for thermal power generation is also widely seen as a very expensive use of expensive fuels. Use renewable electricity to produce green hydrogen, before compressing/liquefying, storing and transporting it H2then burning it to generate electricity would result in efficiency losses of around 70-80%, meaning up to four-fifths of the original clean energy is wasted.

Hydrogen could be used to generate backup power when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, but other forms of long-term energy storage are widely considered to offer better value -price – unless the H2 was used for “seasonal storage”, i.e. storing excess solar power in the summer for use in the winter. But that would make electricity hugely expensive and probably wouldn’t make economic sense until variable renewables take up a much larger share of the energy mix.

And if the natural gas infrastructures and the production of thermal electricity have been singled out by the G7, there has been no question of so-called “no regrets” uses of clean hydrogen and its derivatives in sectors non-electrifiable, such as ammonia fertilizer production, petroleum refining, heavy industries such as steel and cement, and long-distance shipping – all of which today require huge amounts of gray hydrogen or dirty fossil fuels.

This despite a recent call from the IEA for G7 Industrialized Economies reduce some six billion tonnes of CO2 emissions from their heavy industries, which are responsible for 25% of the seven nations’ energy system emissions.

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The G7-HAP also promised to “streamline the implementation of existing multilateral activities” while “avoiding duplication with other initiatives” from bodies such as the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

Yet most of the commitments are inevitably linked to existing initiatives, such as the European REPowerEU program and the related program draft delegated actsthe deployment of support schemes in the US, UK, Japan and the EU, as well as existing bilateral agreements, such as between Germany and the United States.

In addition to the G7-HAP and other commitments in the communiqué relating to energy security and the continuing food crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, ministers also pledged research and development on low-emission aviation. carbon, including hydrogen and electrical solutions.

“The current crisis highlights the real and urgent need and opportunity for Europe to reduce its dependence on Russia by diversifying supply, accelerating the deployment of clean, secure and sustainable energy technologies and critically improving energy efficiency, with significant progress possible by the end of the year,” the ministers said.

“We underscore the central role of low-carbon, renewable hydrogen and its derivatives such as ammonia in achieving net-zero emissions and an energy-secure future.”

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