IRENA sets out green hydrogen guide to policy making


The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has published guidance to green hydrogen policy making in a bid to address some of the main barriers to uptake.

IRENA highlighted low-cost renewable electricity, ongoing technological improvements, government objectives for net zero energy systems, and the benefits of greater system flexibility as all being factors behind green hydrogen’s momentum, with it emerging as a key element in achieving net zero emissions from heavy industry and transport. However, despite these advantages, there are barriers that remain and are preventing green hydrogen’s full contribution to the energy transformation.

They include high production costs and a lack of dedicated infrastructure. Citing an example, IRENA noted that there are only 5,000km of hydrogen transmission pipelines in the world, compared to 3mn km for natural gas. Energy losses are another issue, with green hydrogen having energy losses at each stage of the value chain. Around 30-35% of the energy used to produce hydrogen through electrolysis currently is lost. There is also a lack of value recognition with no green hydrogen market, nor any green steel, green shipping fuel or any valuation of the low greenhouse gas emissions green hydrogen can deliver.

As green hydrogen transitions from a niche player to a widespread energy carrier, an integrated policy approach to overcome initial resistance, reach a minimum threshold for market penetration and beat barriers will be needed, IRENA explained. It identified four central pillars to guide this, beginning with the need for national hydrogen strategies, with countries told to define their level of ambition for hydrogen.

It also includes the setting of policy priorities for green hydrogen, which can support a wide range of end-uses, and guarantees of origin, with carbon emissions needing to be reflect over hydrogen’s whole lifecycle. Origin schemes should include clear labels for hydrogen and hydrogen products to increase consumer awareness and facilitate claims of incentives.

IRENA’s final pillar is governance system and enabling policies. It explained that as green hydrogen becomes mainstream, policies should cover its integration into the broader energy system with civil society and industry involved to maximise the benefits. Suggested actions here include introducing hydrogen as part of energy security, implementing carbon pricing, building or repurposing infrastructure, and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.

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