BONN, Germany – Increasing the use of hydrogen in power, transport, heat and industry could deliver around one fifth of the total carbon emissions cuts needed to limit global warming to safe levels by mid-century, a report by the Hydrogen Council said on Monday.
In an effort to encourage other industries to use hydrogen, Toyota and Air Liquide helped set up the Hydrogen Council, a global lobby launched in January this year.
Its 27 members include automakers Audi, BMW , Daimler, Honda, Hyundai , and energy companies such as Shell and Total.
In a report released on the sidelines of a U.N. climate conference in Bonn, the council said the use of hydrogen across sectors such as transport, energy generation, energy storage, industry, heat and power could reduce annual carbon emissions by 6 billion tonnes by 2050.
“This would … contribute roughly 20 percent of the additional abatement required to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius,” the report said.
To achieve a two-degree limit this century agreed by governments in Paris in 2015, the world needs to make reduce energy-related carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2050.
In the transport sector alone, the report said one in 12 cars sold in California, Germany and Japan should be powered by hydrogen by 2030.
By 2050, hydrogen could power 400 million cars, 15-20 million trucks, around 5 million buses, a quarter of passenger ships and a fifth of non-electrified train tracks, as well as some airplanes and freight ships.
However, combined with other sectors, achieving this would require investment of $280 billion by 2030. Around $110 billion of this would be needed to finance hydrogen production; $80 billion for storage, transport and distribution and $70 billion in product development.
So far the take-up of hydrogen vehicles is tiny and industry experts say their wider use is years away at best, with high purchase prices and a lack of refuelling stations the major barriers.
Yet some companies, such as miner Anglo American and carmaker Toyota, are swimming against the tide and pushing for fuel cell cars to fill a role in a future dominated by electric battery vehicles.
Some countries, too, have set targets for hydrogen use, such as China, which aims to have 1 million hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2030 and Britain which has a 23 million pound ($30 million) fund to accelerate the take-up of hydrogen vehicles.
The council believes that with the right policies, the huge investment needed is “feasible” and the hydrogen market could see revenues of more than $2.5 trillion a year.
“The world already invests more than $1.7 trillion in energy each year, including $650 billion in oil and gas, $300 billion in renewable electricity, and more than $300 billion in the automotive industry,” it said.