For the past 40 years, a clean world fueled by hydrogen was like sex for teenagers. Everyone spoke about it, but nobody was doing it. Today, the process is getting mature and it seems we can start to do it. Why? Because each actor of the current energy and mobility market has something to gain from it.
Last January during the World Economic Forum in Davos, I had the chance to actively participate in the launch of the Hydrogen Council: 13 leaders from energy, transport and industrial companies who got together to create the first global initiative positioning hydrogen - and fuel cells technologies - as a profitable and viable solution to tackle Climate Change.
After a glimmer of hope at the end of the 90', hydrogen has been shadowed by the introduction of lithium batteries. Today, it looks like the benefits of this technology can be fully seized, from production to end-use, because it is non-disruptive for the current players. That is why it can bring everyone on board:
Chemistry experts like Air Liquide or The Linde Group, could become the equivalent of a clean fuel “producing-country”, using power from electric grid companies like ENGIE, at low demand times to hydrolyze water into hydrogen and oxygen.
Oil and gas giants like Total and Royal Dutch Shell could upgrade their pipelines networks and gas stations to bring this clean fuel directly to the consumers.
In this scheme, innovative automotive and rail transport companies, such as Hyundai,Honda, Kawasaki, BMW or Alstom will be better positioned to increase their share of zero-emission fuel cell transport because the hydrogen market will be adapted, giving them the means to do it in a profitable way!
Such initiatives from the business sector are inspiring. Sadly, they are the ones we cruelly lack in the political world, which sets targets without giving solutions to reach them. Yet, in this scenario, governments would be winners since they could reach their carbon reduction targets and still tax hydrogen like they tax gasoline fuel - something they don't know how to do with battery electric vehicles.
Switching to profitable and efficient hydrogen-based solutions would also allow small businesses to stand out, compete into the market. It would stimulate innovation. Traditional oil and gas industries would not fight, but rather bond with cleantech companies. Jobs would not only be saved, but also multiplied due to the new opportunities created. Investments in old installations would be upgraded and adapted, rather than abandoned.
The world cannot continue on combustion engines…this is last century. It’s not only about protecting the environment, it’s a lot about making money, new industrial markets, economic development, profit, job creation. The example of the Hydrogen Council shows that the time has come to adapt, change our way of thinking and doing … to lose once and for all our virginity when it comes to cleantech!
Blog published in partnership with Caran d'Ache