United Nations Sparks Green Hydrogen Initiative

Last month, UN Climate Change announced an initiative whose goal is to scale up green hydrogen production significantly over the next six years. UN Climate Change is the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the international treaty through which the global community seeks to address climate change.

The new “Green Hydrogen Catapult” initiative will see green hydrogen industry leaders, including ACWA Power, CWP Renewables, Envision, Iberdrola, Ørsted, Snam, and Yara, target the deployment of 25 gigawatts through 2026 of renewables-based hydrogen production, with a view to halve the current cost of hydrogen to below US$2 per kilogram.

UN Climate Change, Green Hydrogen Catapult, December 8, 2020

The target of 25 GW by 2026 was not chosen randomly. The group deems that it “align[s] the production and use of green hydrogen with a trajectory that displaces fossil fuels at a rate consistent with achieving net zero global emissions by 2050.”

The Green Hydrogen Catapult takes its place alongside other recently announced initiatives, including a 26 GW green hydrogen and ammonia installation planned by a consortium in Australia working under the name Asian Renewable Energy Hub (AREH); and Fortescue Metals Group’s goal of developing 235 GW of green hydrogen and ammonia production in multiple countries over an unspecified timeframe.

The Green Hydrogen Catapult announcement does not provide detail on how the scale-up will be accomplished, saying only that the partners will “accelerate the necessary technology, component manufacturing and construction advancements, market development and flow of investment.” The announcement says that reaching the group’s “target will require investment of roughly US$110 billion.”

The initiative will include ammonia in its scope. The announcement mentions that ammonia is already “being tested to displace fossil fuels in thermal power generation.”

The partnership group is dominated by energy utilities and developers. ACWA Power is a Saudi Arabian electricity and water utility with an international portfolio of holdings. It is a partner in a Saudi Arabian green ammonia venture that was announced in July. CWP Renewables is an Australian renewable energy developer that is a member of the AREH consortium. Iberdrola is a multinational utility and energy developer, based in Spain, that bills itself as the “world leader in renewable energy” and recently announced a collaboration to provide renewable hydrogen for Fertiberia’s ammonia plants. Ørsted is a multinational electric utility based in Denmark, which recently announced plans to supply wind power to a green ammonia plant in the Netherlands. Snam is a multinational energy infrastructure operator based in Italy.

The two outliers are Yara, well known as one of the world’s largest ammonia producers; and Envision Digital, a Singaporean company that specializes in AIoT (“artificial intelligence of things”). The latter’s Web site mentions that the company has developed an “AIoT operating system which currently connects and manages over 63 million smart devices and 180GW of energy assets globally.” An eighth organization, the American NGO Rocky Mountain Institute, “will facilitate the initiative alongside partners.”

The Green Hydrogen Catapult initiative had its origins within an intertwined collection of UN Climate Change entities including the High-Level Champions for Global Climate Action, the Race to Zero, and the Climate Ambition Alliance.

The founding members of the group are now seeking additional members.

Committed businesses with aligned vision and gigawatt-scale projects under development, as well as mission-aligned investors, customers, and city and regional governments are invited to participate as the initiative takes shape and builds global momentum.

UN Climate Change, Green Hydrogen Catapult, December 8, 2020.
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