Get Ready: The Hydrogen Economy Is On Its Way

Get Ready: The Hydrogen Economy Is On Its Way

The investment world shook when Plug Power, a hydrogen fuel cell maker, rocketed from $16 per share in early November to more than $70 less than three months later. And it wasn’t alone: Other hydrogen players like Bloom Energy, Ballard Systems and Cummins also posted remarkable growth. The sudden excitement was linked to the incoming government administration and the hope that a hydrogen economy may be within reach.

The Biden administration has pledged to invest heavily in the hydrogen economy. The use of hydrogen as a fuel is not new, nor is it the only zero-carbon alternative, but its recent emergence as a viable large-scale energy source has many observers excited. Hydrogen can be transported via pipes or trucks as a liquid or gas, similar to oil and natural gas. When used in fuel cells, hydrogen delivers enough energy per kilogram to rival jet fuel. And when sustainable sources like solar or wind are used to generate hydrogen through electrolysis — the process of splitting water (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen — the result is an infinitely renewable zero-carbon energy source.

The timing of the shift away from fossil fuels to zero-emission hydrogen power could not come at a more critical time. Climate change is already disrupting our lives. Aside from the obvious climate-related disasters like floods and droughts, aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic can be linked to climate change. In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, the Hydrogen Council says, “The world will need to make dramatic changes year after year and decrease energy-related CO2 emissions by 60% until 2050 — even as the population grows by more than 2 billion people.” 

The emerging hydrogen economy also faces a number of technical and logistical challenges, offering a fertile ground for the next generation of innovators. For example, while the cost is decreasing rapidly, hydrogen is still expensive relative to other forms of energy.

Hydrogen is one key to solving climate change and the global economy’s neverending need for energy, but questions remain: Which country (or countries) will own the hydrogen energy market? Which industries will be its biggest beneficiaries? Who will emerge as its biggest hero? We may not know those answers for years to come, but one thing seems certain: Hydrogen is here to stay.