Toward a sustainable approach for hydrogen deployment in Canada
H2GO Canada conducted a consultative study on the future of hydrogen as a carbon-free energy carrier with more than 35 Canadian organizations representing a wide range of sectors. The purpose was to identify the barriers and opportunities to achieving a vision of sustainable hydrogen use in Canada that supports economic development and job creation as well as a decarbonization of energy systems and overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
A high-level overview of the report can be found below. The full report can be accessed here:
With the potential to serve as a versatile, non-carbon energy commodity, hydrogen is capable of meeting society’s demands for power, heat and mobility (to some significant degree). Converting the potential energy stored in molecular hydrogen (H2) into work results in no emissions of carbon dioxide. This is true whether the hydrogen is used in a fuel cell to generate electrical power, or to generate heat through simple combustion.
Hydrogen can be produced from currently developed sources, the supply chains for which can be progressively decarbonized. Hydrogen is the most abundant element on earth, present in both organic and inorganic compounds. Through various processes, hydrogen can be drawn out of these compounds. The carbon-intensity of the hydrogen supply chain is, therefore, a function of its inputs. If, for example, hydrogen is produced using electricity generated from hydropower, nuclear power or wind power, then its carbon-intensity is virtually zero (or nearly so).
Hydrogen has the potential to integrate with established energy infrastructure and modes of distribution. To a significant degree, existing energy distribution infrastructure can be used to move hydrogen to market. Indeed, the integration of hydrogen and hydrogen technologies into energy systems can add value by enhancing the productivity and flexibility of deployed assets.
Principles and Opportunities to Consider
A hydrogen plan for Canada can be developed according to a set of principles, such that it capitalizes on existing advantages and opportunities. The following are excerpts from the complete H2GO Canada report.
Focus on the development of markets to accelerate scale-up. Hydrogen systems have been proven, whether in Canada or abroad, as they have been already deployed in commercial use. Any future plan should focus on demonstrating the market potential, rather than the technology.
Help mobilize Canada’s resources for export. Hydrogen is a potential growth opportunity for Canada’s resources and energy sectors, possibly using existing corridors and rights-of-way to reach border crossings and coastal ports.
Deliver clean air benefits to the public. The social costs of air pollution are often overlooked, given the general improvements in air quality owing to industry efforts to reduce smog-forming emissions from vehicles and stationary sources. Yet local emissions sources are still a threat to human health, and cited by the public as an ongoing environmental concern. Cultivating uses of hydrogen that can deliver immediate health benefits to the public, via cleaner air, can reduce health care costs.
Prioritize a net gain in employment. Hydrogen systems build on existing energy infrastructure and the production of hydrogen relies on currently developed resources. As well, the distribution of hydrogen can work within existing business models. Therefore, as the use of hydrogen for heat, power and mobility expands, it should be possible to preserve jobs in traditional sectors while growing the opportunities for new employment in the development, deployment and support of hydrogen technologies.
The Way Forward
A diverse array of industry stakeholders agree on the importance of developing a vision and strategy for hydrogen in Canada. The organizations that have participated in the H2GO Canada consultations support the Government of Canada working with industry to define a set of objectives and a suitable process. Importantly, this process should be government-supported and industry-led such that the needs for a sustainable hydrogen market are duly addressed.