Professor of Economics and Business at the Universidad Europea
ydrogen is one of the essential energy sources that will allow the transformation of our economy towards a sustainable economy. On the one hand, hydrogen is abundant in nature: we can find it in water or in the air. Moreover, it has a very high energetic power, higher than that of natural gas. Moreover, it is possible to obtain it in a clean way, without using fossil fuels for its production, in what we call “green hydrogen”: that is, not only is hydrogen a sustainable energy source, but we can also extract it in a clean way. Hydrogen can be obtained cleanly from water by means of a process known as “electrolysis”, which separates this component from water without generating CO2 emissions.
The use of hydrogen as a source of energy that can cover our current needs is just beginning to develop, but it still requires effort, time, investment and research before it can completely replace current energy sources. To this end, it should be borne in mind that hydrogen is a costly source of energy in terms of production, storage and transport. As a low-density, highly corrosive and flammable element, it requires safe and well-tested procedures for a secure supply, since, for example, it needs to be stored at very low temperatures, which is a logistical challenge.
In addition, hydrogen is not yet produced in sufficient quantities to replace fossil fuels; we are currently at hydrogen production rates capable of meeting 18% of our current energy needs. Of this percentage, the majority comes from polluting sources, not mostly from clean or “green hydrogen” sources. This would require the extraction of green hydrogen to be boosted to a greater extent in order to replace the use of fossil fuels.
In 2020, the European Green Hydrogen Strategy has been launched, which foresees an investment of 400,000 million euros until 2030 to boost the production of this energy source.
In Spain, the company Iberdrola, has put into operation an important green hydrogen plant in Puertollano (Ciudad Real), with a capacity of 800 MW and an investment of 1,800 million euros until 2027, and also plans to increase its production capacity 40 times more using other production centers it has.
Along with Iberdrola, all the major companies in the sector are entering the field of green hydrogen, such as: Endesa, Naturgy, Repsol, Cepsa, Enagás, Red Eléctrica or Acciona.
Spain’s potential in the extraction, distribution and commercialization of hydrogen is considerable. Thus, a study by Bank of America shows that 40% of the capacity of the total hydrogen projects developed in Europe in 2021 were located in Spain.
In addition, the European Hydrogen Congress 2022 is currently being held in Madrid, where the key role of hydrogen in the transition to a carbon-free economy and in achieving Europe’s longed-for energy independence has been highlighted. In Spain there are public-private investment plans in the sector worth 8,900 million euros.
Among the future challenges we will have to address in order to generate sufficient quantities of green hydrogen and be able to transport and market it, the International Energy Agency (IEA) points out the following: turning ports into distribution hubs, taking advantage of existing infrastructures as distribution channels, such as gas pipelines, extending the use of hydrogen to international trade, establishing green hydrogen shipping routes, promoting legislation, investment and research and development, and finally, promoting international cooperation.
We are facing the great source of renewable energy for the coming decades that will allow us to contribute to a sustainable economy and enhance energy autonomy.
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