What role will hydrogen play in the transport revolution?
In order to combat climate change, there is an urgent need for alternative energy carriers that can be produced and used in a carbon-neutral manner. Hydrogen is an optimal alternative to fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel. It contributes towards the decarbonisation of the industrial sector and, in conjunction with battery electric mobility, towards the decarbonisation of the transport sector. Green hydrogen means that it is produced using carbon-free, renewable energies, such as wind, solar and hydroelectric power. In my view, hydrogen is key to a meaningful and effective transition from fossil fuels to zero-emission mobility, in particular for heavy-goods transport, where battery electric mobility entails disadvantages that are difficult to overcome.
In addition to the decarbonisation of heavy-goods transport, all those applications are of interest for hydrogen in which a conversion from fossil fuels to electricity is either technically, economically or politically problematic. For example, for railway lines that have not been electrified, which are still widespread in many regions of Germany. Furthermore, the industrial sector still consumes a great deal of hydrogen that is produced using coal and gas. This hydrogen will also have to be converted to sustainable sources at an appropriate time in the future.
One source of criticism is the high energy consumption associated with the production of hydrogen. Why – in spite of this – does Alpiq view this energy carrier as an environmentally friendly alternative to the combustion engine?
Energy efficiency is indeed a downside of hydrogen, but it is only one piece of the puzzle. Ultimately, the question is which technology can achieve the greatest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for any given application. The advantage of hydrogen is that its production can be perfectly adapted to the supply of highly fluctuating renewable energy. The fact that hydrogen can also be stored in large quantities makes it the key to a virtually unlimited expansion of renewable energies such as wind and solar power, without the risk of having to shut down renewable electricity systems or even having to effectively waste electricity for applications that make little sense.
Incidentally, by exploiting economies of scale and consistently expanding the distribution infrastructure, the costs of a hydrogen-based economy could be brought down to the level of mineral oil. This means that the decarbonisation does not necessarily have to be a burden on the economy. On the contrary, since in comparison with oil, a larger proportion of production is local, hydrogen can even increase the GDP, i.e. create economic value.
How important are energy suppliers such as Alpiq for a future characterised by e-mobility?
The electric mobility of the future requires the know-how of car manufacturers and energy companies alike. We are a part of this revolution and are actively shaping it: whether as a producer of renewable electricity from wind, solar and hydroelectric power, of climate-neutral hydrogen, as a developer of digital mobility services such as Juicar, or as a full-service partner for charging infrastructures. Let us keep in mind: Electricity is essentially the new oil, and thus THE key source of energy. This is why I am confident that Alpiq will continue to play an important role in tomorrow’s energy world.