Hydrogen is an energy carrier and can be produced from a wide variety of sources. Its market is well established, with global demand currently standing at around 8–10 exajoules (EJ), most of which is consumed in the chemical sector. At present, roughly 95% of worldwide hydrogen production comes from fossil fuels.
Hydrogen from renewables can be produced through various pathways, with the most established being the use of renewable electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen in an electrolyser. IRENA's report, Hydrogen from renewable power: Technology outlook for the energy transition, gives an overview of electrolyser technologies and highlights the technical potential to channel large amounts of renewable electricity to sectors for which decarbonisation is otherwise difficult – such as industry, buildings and transport, as well as in niche applications such as remote locations. By doing so, hydrogen from renewable power can directly displace hydrogen produced from fossil fuels, whilst also replacing fossil fuels as feedstocks in several processes. In addition, the IRENA report Hydrogen: A renewable energy perspective – released in 2019 at the second Hydrogen Energy Ministerial Meeting in Japan – expands on the previous report, providing insights on the steps required to develop hydrogen from renewables as well as related production cost forecasts.
IRENA’s work on hydrogen from renewable power focuses on assessing its role in the energy transition as an enabler for the integration of higher shares of renewable energy in the power sector and in end-uses such as transportation and manufacturing. Under this context, the IRENA FlexTool is used to assess the impact of hydrogen production on power systems and its potential to improve their flexibility.
During the tenth session of the IRENA Assembly in January 2020, the Agency organised the Ministerial Roundtable on Green Hydrogen. At the event, Member Countries and private sector stakeholders debated the potential of hydrogen from renewable power to decarbonise the global energy system and its relevance in different national energy contexts. Members shared insights on how they envisioned their roles in developing a global hydrogen supply chain. Participants included high-level representatives from Austria, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the USA, as well as the European Commission, the International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy, the International Energy Agency and the Global Maritime Forum.
Hydrogen from renewable power has the potential to be a key driver of the energy transition by tackling various critical energy challenges.