London — Hydrogen's momentum is accelerating, despite challenges around costs and the global pandemic, panellists said in a webinar on July 31.
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Several key trends are moving in hydrogen's direction, including policy, supply networks and investment appetite for decarbonizing fuels, said Randy MacEwen, president and CEO of Canada-based Ballard Power Systems.
"I'm really positive there are no intrinsic barriers," MacEwen said. "The only thing slowing us down is moving through that transition to scale."
Scaling up to produce more green hydrogen produced from renewables has two key requirements – policy support and cost reductions on a massive scale, MacEwen added.
Carbon tax or policy would facilitate a "tipping point," he said. Cost reductions are expected to occur through supply chain efficiencies, which are accelerating as major supply-side companies get involved in the hydrogen economy.
The last six months have produced "an enormous wave of excitement for green hydrogen," said David Hart, director of E4Tech, a fuel cell and hydrogen consultancy.
Companies such as ITM Power and Thyssenkrupp are rapidly scaling up to gigawatt electrolyser capacity, while suppliers such as Air Liquide and Linde Group also are investing heavily into supply-side efficiencies, Hart said.
Air Products' $5 billion green hydrogen and ammonia project in Neom will work "in synergy with the fuel cell industry" and have a significant impact on the supply chain, Hart said.
Another key trend is around investment, where hydrogen will see larger pools of capital available, Hart added.
"Two years ago, a big company would tell its shareholders, we're doing hydrogen, and shareholders would say that is too risky," he said. "Now, there is active pressure – they say 'why aren't you doing hydrogen?"
The global pandemic has curbed some orders, but overall has been an accelerant of the hydrogen economy, according to MacEwen.
"Online ecommerce has accelerated by two years," he said. "By 2050, you will see a 40% increase in ecommerce and trucking, where decarbonization is very important. [COVID-19] is a catalyst to continued investment in fuel cells."
The European Commission's recently released hydrogen strategy also signalled the drive toward hydrogen in Europe. California too is supporting legislation around zero emission trucks that will spur more hydrogen development, but the US needs to provide more leadership on a national scale or risk falling behind, MacEwen said.