Entering text into the input field will update the search result below

Hydrogen Economy: Ask The Right Questions

May 06, 2021 8:30 AM ETBLDP, GOOG, GOOGL, PLUG, AES, SIEGY, SMAWF, TSLA, BLDP:CA237 Comments
Keith Williams profile picture
Keith Williams


  • There is a lot of hype about green hydrogen, but in the fine print, it is about renewable energy projects that might eventually involve green hydrogen.
  • The numbers make clear that green hydrogen is at least 10 years away and that there are other ways to store excess cheap renewable energy (e.g. grid-scale batteries).
  • Blue hydrogen (made from gas with carbon capture) is often included in clean hydrogen discussions, but carbon capture is less real than green hydrogen.
  • 10-year agreement between Google and AES shows grid-scale battery storage and hydro, coupled with renewable power has arrived for 24/7 power supply.
  • Investors need to look at the problem that hydrogen could solve (energy storage and transport) and consider other carbon-free solutions in their investment decisions.

Energy Storage System. Solar Panel, wind turbines and Li-ion battery container
Photo by onurdongel/iStock via Getty Images

google data centerGoogle Data Center

The headlines, that make me think I’m living in a parallel universe, keep coming. Almost every day I see headlines concerning a $multibillion green hydrogen development that ends up being a

This article was written by

Keith Williams profile picture
Keith began his career as a research scientist (developmental biology, biochemistry, molecular biology) at the Australian National University, University of Oxford (UK), the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry (Munich, Germany) and finally Macquarie University (Sydney) where he held a Chair in Biology and established the Centre for Analytical Biotechnology. Pioneering the area of proteomics (with Marc Wilkins in his group coining the term), Keith established the world’s first government-funded Major National Proteomics Facility (Australian Proteome Analysis Facility) which was involved with industrialising protein science. Keith left academe with his team to found Proteome Systems Ltd in 1999 to commercialise proteomics. The company had a strong focus on intellectual property, engineering/technology and bioinformatics. As CEO he led the company to ASX listing in 2004. Since 2005 Keith has been involved in new business development in biotech, e-health and other emerging technologies. Keith sees climate change and sustainable development as a major issue for humankind and also a major business disruptor/risk and opportunity. Keith holds a Bachelor Agr Science from the University of Melbourne and a PhD from the Australian National University. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences & Engineering and received an AM (Member of the Order of Australia) for services to the Biotechnology Industry. He has received various industry awards including an Innovation Hero Medal from the Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering. With 300 scientific papers and many patents written, Keith has a clear view of innovation in the Biotechnology and Climate/Renewable Energy space. He is not a financial advisor but his perspective adds relevance to decision-making concerning feasibility and investment in technology innovation.

Analyst’s Disclosure: I am/we are long RWEOY. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Seeking Alpha's Disclosure: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. Any views or opinions expressed above may not reflect those of Seeking Alpha as a whole. Seeking Alpha is not a licensed securities dealer, broker or US investment adviser or investment bank. Our analysts are third party authors that include both professional investors and individual investors who may not be licensed or certified by any institute or regulatory body.

Recommended For You

Comments (237)

BLDP down 33%, PLUG down 24%.
TSLA down 36%.
Bugwart profile picture
Thank you for an excellent article which highlights many of the concerns that I have had about H2. Like you, I have read many articles on Green Hydrogen. As an engineer, I have worked with Hydrogen production, storage and transport.

The articles on Green Hydrogen for vehicles gloss over the storage issues. There are 3 primary ways to store H2.
1. You can compress H2 which requires high pressure storage vessels and the cost of compression.
2. You can liquefy H2, which is already done on a commercial scale in North America. The storage temperature of 20 K requires vacuum insulated storage vessels and materials capable of working near absolute zero (300 series stainless steels). Unlike high pressure storage, liquid hydrogen needs a minimal gaseous usage which is at least as great as the heat leak. Typically heat leak is a few percent per day of tank capacity.
3. You can convert H2 chemically into a hydride. Ammonia (NH3) is a hydride which has more modest storage requirements than either gaseous or liquid H2. This makes it easier to store and transport ammonia than hydrogen. Solid hydrides were tested in the early 1990s, but they never reached commercialization.

Each storage method has safety and materials issues. Each method requires energy which needs to be considered in the overall energy balance.
Davewmart profile picture
@Bugwart Clearly in your view if there are any issues with a given technology the answer is to discard it, not seek solutions.

It is great that there are so many fields which present no problems at all.
PapaWhisky profile picture

I think @Bugwart made a simple summary of the storage issues and did not deign to select or discard any particular one
Keith Williams profile picture
@Bugwart Thank you for adding an additional dimension to the hydrogen discussion.
Henry Miles profile picture
Air Products announces Monday before the bell; scroll down for a summary of their project in Saudi -- https://www.airproducts.com/ (Long $APD)
Davewmart profile picture
@Henry Miles

More stuff on what they are planning in Saudi.
They are using Topsoe Haldor in a reversible fuel cell to make ammonia:

Nerd alert! Be aware all my links are seriously nerdy!


Note the very high efficiencies.

Here is the kit:


It is then shipped as ammonia, which has worked out to the usually favoured method in spite of competition from other carriers

Deeply nerdy comparison of costs of shipping here:


It looks like being cost competitive to produce ammonia in areas with high solar and wind resources and ship it to areas less well endowed.
Ammonia as an energy carrier here - these guys fancy using ammonia lot as a delivery mechanism once it arrives in the country of use too:


The Haldor Topsoe kit may be able to use the ammonia straight without reconversion to hydrogen externally, but here is one way of getting the hydrogen back out for use:


Note the 100% Faradic efficiency.
Some of the processes in hydrogen supply can use energy from the environment for very high efficiencies.

Geek heaven is a very lovely place!
Keith Williams profile picture
@Henry Miles The focus still seems to be on transport, which I don't understand as my take is that the BEV has won that race.

I guess we differ about heavy transport, but once the Tesla Semi gets released this difference might get resolved.
Bugwart profile picture
@Keith Williams Transportation costs vary significantly depending on the method. From the most to the least expensive, they are:

Although it is much cheaper than air freight, truck shipment is quite expensive. I ran a plant in Eastern Pennsylvania which shipped containers of products world wide. The ocean freight costs to Europe and East Asia were typically less then the trucking costs to and from the ports.
Henry Miles profile picture
@Keith Williams

Thanks for the article and helping to keep these important issues front and center. While we have not always agreed on the solutions, we are in lockstep on the objective – to clean up our planet.

A couple of thoughts. We are widely invested in alternative energy: a) BEV personal vehicles and light trucks, b) FCEV commercial, terminal-to-terminal vehicles – busses, heavy trucks, locomotives, ferries/ships, and locational equipment, and c) grid-level industrial/municipal solutions. Our investments in the space span the North American, the EU, and Asia.

The competition appears to be becoming very intense at the retail / auto end of the market and, IMO, a shakeout / consolidation will eventually occur of the kind that gave rise to GM over 100 years ago.

FC investments have been very volatile of late. For example, just today ITM Power in the UK, and Nel ASA in Norway rose 15% and 12%, respectively. We have done very well on both, as we have on larger players in hydrogen including, notably, Linde. Also, believe it or not, Cummins may be an up-and-comer given their majority ownership of Hydrogenics.

In addition to the more obvious grid-level providers – AES, Orsted, and Siemens in which we are also long – the time come (again) to consider nuclear energy including to carry the load when wind and solar cannot. In this regard, we are watching TerraPower (private, supported by Gates) who is working with the DOE, GE, and Hitachi on scalable reactors. President Biden appears to be behind the idea. We have also recently invested in the largest publicly traded uranium company in North America, Cameco, that broke a multi-year high today.

Keith Williams profile picture
@Henry Miles Hi Hank Always good to have your perspective! As you indicate our vision is aligned, but how we get there differs. This might be of interest to other investors who are trying to sort out how to respond to the urgent need to decarbonise.

My big concern is that hydrogen and nuclear end up being a way for the fossil fuel industry to continue with what they have been superbly successful at so far ..... delaying the change.

The really urgent need is to reduce emissions by at least 50% by 2030. This means we need to be acting now with technologies that can contribute immediately. Five years ago I doubted that we had the technology to get there, but today I'm optimistic IF we get on with it. Solar PV, wind, batteries, pumped hydro, BEVs and demand management, time shifting etc can get us to 50% or more reductions within the decade.

Hydrogen and nuclear can't .....
Davewmart profile picture
@Henry Miles Hi Hank

The data I have seen indicates that the lowest cost source of electricity in China is nuclear.

I have high hopes for their factory producible HT SMR.

A high temperature reactor is also ideal for hydrogen production.

Have a look at this report here:


On page 51:

' An analysis of current total costs in China, where manufacturers already report fully installed system prices below $300/kW105, increase confidence that these dramatic cost reductions can be achieved. In addition, European manufacturers such as Nel have published plans to achieve system costs of $300-400/kW within the next five years106(Box E, see further discussion in Annex).In addition, the energy consumption to produce green hydrogen (i.e., the electrolyser efficiency) will significantly decrease in the next years from ca. 53 kWh/kgof hydrogen to ca. 45 kWh/kg of hydrogen, or potentially even lower with novel technological innovation.107'

And on page 54:

' In the past, high electrolyser costs have made it important to run electrolysers at high capacity in order to reduce capital costs per unit of production, which implied reliance on more expensive electricity from the grid. But as electrolysers capital costs fall drastically, high utilisation will no longer be crucial. As Exhibit 2.3 shows, once electrolyser costs fall below $300/kW, electricity cost becomes the almost sole driver of green production costs as long as utilisation rates are above around 2000 hours per annum. '

At 2000 hours pa, then if desired nuclear plants could be used not only for baseload, but could use their output fully even when demand is low at night.

An alternative might be to use district heating systems for towns, running hot water from the nuclear reactor to them.
The reactor does not even have to be sited close to the town, although 4th generation reactors are safe enough to allow that, as insulated pipes are efficient enough to allow long distance hot water transport.

The nuscale reactor is also suitable for hydrogen production:

Henry Miles profile picture

I hope my memory is serving me well that your first name is Dave; if not, please correct me. Thank you very much for the links; I plan to comb through them this weekend.

Beyond renewed federal interest, one of the important 'tells' of the future nuclear may be signaled by whomever, if anyone, buys Brookfield's stake in Westinhghouse -- www.nasdaq.com/... This is an important development to watch, IMO.

Dark horse "blue hydrogen" player: Proton Technologies of Calgary Alberta. They have demonstrated Hydrogen extraction from oil and natural gas wells that leaves the Carbon underground. Estimated cost is 50-70 US cents per kg of H2, one tenth current NG steam reformation cost. Bonus: also works with coal, insitu.
Keith Williams profile picture
@dvd1812 It looks like the classic hydrogen strategy to extend the use of natural gas by adding small amounts of hydrogen to the gas system. calgaryherald.com/...

The research paper referenced as proof of concept looks like there are many problems in making this into a clean hydrogen system. Read the fine print. proton.energy/... Given this research paper I find it hard to see how the cost structure for H2 production claimed can be met.
mike222 profile picture
Interesting and I believe accurate article. Do you know if five year projections that the batteries will be able to hold quite a bit more energy and also to be much less expensive are accurate.
Do you have any good guesses as to how good the batteries Will be in five years? And good companies to invest in a battery area?
Commodity Tracker profile picture
@mike222 Batteries build today will carry less charge in 5 years, not more. Cost is sunk, so can not become cheaper.
In five years we may get a better design and commodity mix that could improve $/Kwh storage. But commodity prices in general are on the rise, wages and interest rates are likely to rise also. The $Kwh for wind and solar have flattened out significantly. Without a technology shift, I believe renewables have bottomed out.
Davewmart profile picture
@T12432 ' The $Kwh for wind and solar have flattened out significantly. Without a technology shift, I believe renewables have bottomed out.'

I disagree on that. In spite of materials price increases, both look set to continue to fall from all the data I have seen.

Since they are already cheaper in many locations than existing coal and even natural gas plants, there is great momentum behind a huge increase in volume, driving prices down further.

Batteries are a different matter, and I would agree that materials price rises seem likely to restrict or eliminate cost reductions as when they are not hopelessly naive 6% or whatever projections based on extrapolation in a straight line forever rather than the underlying technology the assumptions of falling cost assume major increases in underlying technologies, which can be difficult in practise.

For instance the cost projections for the 4680 assume high yields etc, but that can be tough to actually attain, and take a very long time.

Long range BEV cars are certainly not cheaper than ICE, they are purely a compliance thing, so there is no near automatic driver for increasing production to the same extent as wind and solar driving volume up and costs down.
Commodity Tracker profile picture
..and these are pro-solar links.
Talking with Chinese manufacturers, they need prices to rise and are pushing hard with subsidies being removed. It was mainly the Chinese Govt. subsidies and efficiency improvement which made solar cheap. Subsidies are now gone.
I know that Natural Gas is not considered ESG, but it always has the advantage of being cheaper, more plentiful, and you do not have to have processing plants or solar cells or anything else to make the stuff.- like hydrogen.

Plus all the major metros use the stuff to power their street mass transit, etc. They tout "Clean Fuel Busses, etc. NG is cleaner than diesel, and gasoline, and god forbid, still coal. Coal fired power plants to make electricity? Crazy! Still happening!
disdaniel profile picture
Good article Keith. I largely agree with you analysis.

One "niche" I see for (green) hydrogen is in fueling air transport. That will be a difficult nut to crack entirely with batteries...and on its face (due to inherent properties) hydrogen offers a better starting point.
Davewmart profile picture
@disdaniel @disdaniel There is a hierarchy of range and weight in the aircraft industry.

Present batteries are pretty much limited to very short and light, like trainer aircraft.

Hydrogen can up that somewhat to perhaps 50 seats or so.

Ammonia offers the best potential for anything short of intercontinental in my view:

' Decarbonizing the aviation industry is a major challenge. Current strategies being explored have potential drawbacks for the aerospace sector. Battery technology does not currently have the power density required to give a standard narrow-body jet (such as the A320 or 737) sufficient range. Hydrogen would need to be used in its deeply cryogenic liquid state, requiring new infrastructures and major changes to aircraft configurations. Synthetic fuels and biofuels require novel processes or arable land for production and leave the issue of soot emissions unsolved. With some governments beginning to tie COVID-19 recovery funding to net-zero targets being met, further solutions are clearly needed.

The propulsion system was devised by Reaction Engines and was investigated by a team at STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, based at the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source Research Facility and STFC’s Technology Department.

The system has the potential to crack the ammonia fuel efficiently using heat harvested from the jet engine through Reaction Engines’ heat exchangers to provide a zero-carbon fuel blend of ammonia and hydrogen that burns stably just like jet fuel.

The density of liquid ammonia allows for conventional aircraft configurations to be used and it may be possible to retrofit into an existing engine, resulting in a zero-carbon jet that could start serving the short haul market well before the 2050 target currently set by the industry. '


The ammonia would be provided by the likes of the Saudi renewables to ammonia project, and extensive infrastructure already exists to handle it.

For intercontinental, artificial jet fuel might be about all we can do.
I would suggest that since carbon is part of the chain for that, natural gas with carbon capture might be the best option, as that would give the very pure carbon needed.
disdaniel profile picture
@Davewmart I'm sorry, that wall of text was not particularly helpful to me.

Isn't "ammonia" basically hydrogen? Are you splitting hairs?

I understand that no low/zero carbon replacement for conventional jet fuel is currently well advanced, as there really has not been a need for such to date. I believe that is changing, and I re-iterate my view that fueling air transport looks like a promising niche for hydrogen.
Davewmart profile picture
@disdaniel Well, tech subjects are necessarily detailed and involve some in depth reading.

The difference between ammonia and hydrogen is that ammonia is liquid are room temperature, whereas liquid hydrogen needs keeping at very low temperatures.

Making the cryogenic containers and storing them on an aircraft is tough.

The basic issues are how much energy a given volume and weight of fuel contains.

Batteries are lousy, hydrogen is dense alright, but not once the containment is added, although still better than batteries by a long way.

Ammonia is better, but not as good as jet fuel. It is hydrogen, with nitrogen in the molecule.

Sure, we can produce jet fuel or similar right now from renewables.

The problem is that it is very, very expensive.
So for the biggest longest range aircraft it is really an issue of costs and how rapidly they can be driven down.

Hope this helps - it is as non-geek speak as I can manage! ;-)
Good article. I wish you would have published a few months ago. Thanks. I'm starting to think $PLUG's accounting issues are a deliberate attempt to 'cook the books' in an attempt to hide excessive development costs.
It's all kind of insane when we still have lots of fossil fuels left that are cheap, highly effective and efficient and the infrastructure is already paid for. By the time fossil fuels start to run out we will probably have nuclear fusion.
@It's Sausage Time fossile fuels are very bad for the atmosphere. Thats why there is such a big push toward renewables. It has nothing to do with effectiveness or efficiency. It is about not destroying earth.
Keith Williams profile picture
@It's Sausage Time It is not a question of fossil fuels running out. The science says we have to urgently decarbonize to make the planet viable for most humans. And this is the decade that will decide humankind's future. We need to have at least a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030. This is part of the reason that hydrogen such a big focus currently. My take is that hydrogen is an expensive way to address the problem,

If you choose to ignore the real issue here, then you won't see what is happening. This has big implications for your investment in energy and transport.
@Keith Williams Huh? Atmospheric CO2 levels today are VERY LOW compared with almost the entire history of the Earth. Most forms of life on Earth evolved with CO2 levels at least 5 times higher than today. Life absolutely loves CO2 - it's plant food! - and the world is currently greening thanks to our recycling of carbon locked underground back into the natural carbon cycle.
Funny how the media has demonized an entirely beneficial part of the atmosphere.
Commodity Tracker profile picture
London has introduced in 2020, twenty (20) of the new Wrightbus hydrogen buses into service on London bus routes 245, 7 and N7.
Keith Williams profile picture
@T12432 Did you read the whole article that you referenced? The conclusion is that BEV buses are going to win over hydrogen largely for the reasons mentioned in my article.

... and there are ~400 BEV buses operating in London now....
Davewmart profile picture
@T12432 From your link:

' The principal drawback is the that it takes thrice the energy to produce hydrogen by electrolysis, the cleanest method, than the hydrogen will embody.'

Which is nonsense, and the writer of the piece is in no position to assess hydrogen buses.

Traditional alkaline electrolysis even when not helped to greater efficiency by the use of waste heat from industry etc is around 70% efficient, and I have linked elsewhere in this thread to the Topsoe Haldor reversible SOEC which is one way ( not the only one ) of hitting 90% efficiency.

Maybe he or she means overall efficiency, so the electricity has a round trip, or something, but we can only assess what is written, and this is wholly inaccurate.

Batteries will be more efficient, probably, depending on how the electricity for them is generated, but the real issues are range and good low temperature performance, where FCEVs are way ahead, and as the article notes, costs are falling rapidly.

But what the transport authorities are doing, very sensibly, is matching their solutions to the different routes etc, and mixing and matching.

However, Nanjing, which previously had an all BEV fleet of buses, has decided to switch totally to 7,000FCEVs:


Symbio is building FCEV range extenders for electric buses.

What is not to like about extending the range of BEVs by a zero pollution RE?

I get pretty fed up with all the 'from first principles' sweeping statements.

That ain't what the engineers running the transport fleets are doing, thank goodness.

How much and what can it do?

Are the relevant criteria.
Keith Williams profile picture
@Davewmart Re the Loop Energy fuel cell bus project in Nanjing.

I checked the Loop Energy website and found a release on 4/28/21. investors.loopenergy.com/... What is announced is that Loop Energy has provided 10 fuel cell vehicles. The goal is eventually to provide a 300 vehicle fuel cell fleet for Nanjing, although no details were given about how concrete such a goal is.

No mention of replacing the entire fleet of 7000 buses. Nor could I see any mention of replacing BEV buses with fuel cell buses.

Just about anything to do with hydrogen involves a launch into unreality.....
Davewmart profile picture
' Significantly, large scale battery storage in the US is expected to increase by 4 GW in 2021'

Significantly, that is not how storage is rated.
It is rated by the number of GWh of energy stored.

GW is a measure of power output, not storage.

The author has no idea about the subject he is pontificating on.
PapaWhisky profile picture

Most of these batteries are rated for four hours.

(Most, not all, but it's starting point for numbers.)

So 4GW for four hrs is 4GWh, or 4000 MWh.

A small 500 MW gas plant could generate that much between breakfast and dinner.


Don't get me wrong. I'm a greenie, pro solar, tilting at the wind kinda guy. But my EE degree frequently gets in the way.

I think we can get to the renewable future, but we've a long way to go.
Davewmart profile picture
@PapaWhisky 'Don't get me wrong. I'm a greenie, pro solar,'

Me too.

However, hydrogen storage is in the the 100GWH levels, and can last months or years without significant losses.

It is a totally different ball game to battery storage.

They are used by real engineers in different circumstances.
4corners profile picture
Please share your reference for no significant losses. My experience with hydrogen is that it leaks out of most vessels under pressure due to the small size of the molecule. That may have changed recently. If you can reference the new technology, it would be greatly appreciated.
Eadwig profile picture
A vast ammonia (NH3) infrastructure already exists. Worldwide, some 180 million metric tons (t) of ammonia is produced annually, and 120 ports are equipped with ammonia terminals.

Who thinks cargo ships are going to plug in to recharge their batteries before moving on? Or would it make that much more sense to take on board ammonia and use a hydrogen fuel cell with the only emissions being nitrogen and water?

The first commercial hydrogen powered ships are on the stocks already and its relatively easy to retrofit existing dirty diesel burning ships. Ignoring what's already happening is akin to people dodging cars on the street while saying the horse will never be replaced.

Once the article has taken that hole beneath the water line, as it were, you have to start questioning what else it has got wrong with its assessments.

The obvious one is that it assumes hydrogen fuel cells are all about cars when they're not.

Off-grid power generation, emergency back-up systems, rail, marine and passenger transport are just some of the application areas already working or being delivered this year.

Don't miss out on what could be one of the greatest bull markets of your lifetime!
@Eadwig well said!
@Eadwig converting ammonia to H2 requires thermal cracking at high temperature with PGM catalyst. Ammonia is commercially produced from natural gas. What you’re suggesting is a very expensive and pointless circle-jerk. Better to just power ships with LNG and cut out the middle man.
Eadwig profile picture
@deckofcards "Better to just power ships with LNG and cut out the middle man."

That would be an option but no one is going for it that I am aware of, nor is there anything like the same infrastructure already in place as there is for ammonia which is already distributed all over the globe because of its use in fertilizers.

It isn't my suggestion, by the way, the International Maritime Organisation is heading up the push towards the transition to ammonia.
Commodity Tracker profile picture
"80% efficiency for pumped hydro round trip" Year one engineering will tell you this is not correct. Add some efficiencies together. Pumping, evaporation and generation. Reference please.
@T12432 exactly right. Not to mention geographical requirements and enormous infrastructure development.
@PapaWhisky yeah, you can also google pump efficiency and hydraulic turbine efficiency, which when combined with evaporation and hydraulic losses in flow lines cannot possibly achieve the claimed system efficiency in those charts. Nevertheless, I agree that pumped hydro makes a ton more sense than batteries or hydrogen.
Solar panels are extremely energy intensive to manufacture and deploy. The enviro zealots conveniently overlook the massive embedded energy debt of solar. Many solar panels will never recover their embedded energy debt over the course of their entire operating life, let alone battery storage energy debt. TROJAN HORSE.
@bikenut1973 Lmao. You’re citing a study from 1998? Good one.
@deckofcards sorry you have been wrong for so long. It was the first article that showed up. Kidding - actually it used to be true that a panel never made the energy that it took to create it. But that is not true anymore. Thin film PV has an ROE of about 3-4 years. Silicon wafer PV is longer because making a crystalline wafer takes a lot of energy. The point is, even if we stay with carbon based energy or materials forever, we will have to produce it with renewable energy. The high potential energy of old dinosaurs is a limited resource. Batteries however, not sure when we will get to net zero.
Roscop123 profile picture
I agree 100%--Can't figure out why people continue to push this hydrogen nonsense. In the absence of a large breakthrough--hydrogen just can't compete
Article completely ignores carbon footprint and precious metal issue for battery production and disposal/ compares fuel cells to electric motors???/ suggests green hydrogen is futuristic when, in fact it exists here and now. A very slanted report in favort of the writers investments.
Keith Williams profile picture
@kdstf I suggest you look at what RWE, Europe's biggest green hydrogen supporter is doing. They have no plans to invest significantly for at least the next 2-3 years. My take is that they are happy to engage with Government if the Government is paying, but when it comes to investing their own $$/Euro they are standing back, simply because the economics make no sense.
Sad piece of writing. Nothing new. Just all negative. Completely ignores the fact that the transportation industry is not homogeneous. Scary that a research scientists writes from a Bloomberg blog and EV websites as if the information is foolproof.

Recent REAL scientific research on fuel cells clearly demonstrates that is applications are immense. BEVs and FCVs will coexist as they do today.
Ricardo Woof profile picture

You say the following toward the end of your post: "Recent REAL scientific research on fuel cells clearly demonstrates that is applications are immense."

If time allows, would you please post some links or other resources so we/I can access this research? Would very much appreciate the opportunity to read these authors' views.

Thanks. Good luck with your investments.
Jolinar_cz profile picture
they will for sure coexists... But the numbers will speak loud and clear... HEV is and will stay a niche
@Ricardo Woof there are hundreds...pick your research database...google scholar and mdpi are pretty friendly and then search for whatever buzz words you want. Do yourself a favor and don’t read papers from the 90s...there are plenty from the past couple of years. The papers sound extremely promising and many almost giddy bc the researchers realize they are not able to take everything into account (talking positives).

If research papers aren’t your flavor go check Cummins New Power page or Garrett’s Electric and Hybrid page. Two stalwarts in transportation that are putting product to work TODAY.
Ricardo Woof profile picture
@Keith Williams : Thanks for another thoughtful, well-detailed article. You have clarified several questions I have been on the fence about, so I go forward from here to research further on these matters.

One question I have addresses the possibility of powering electric utilities with green hydrogen produced via solar and/or wind power. I noticed recently an example of such a goal emerging from an agreement between First Solar and Nel ASA:

This partnership's goals might mirror RWE's past efforts, though I am no expert.

The question raised in my mind involves an acceptance that automotive use of green hydrogen could be a long way off, or perhaps not feasible at all. That said, I like the idea of ditching (no pun intended) the destructive mining involved to obtain lithium, etc. that batteries require. Even with green hydrogen's shortcomings, there remains for me a simple elegance in the green hydrogen production process. If one puts cars aside for now, does the First Solar/Nel ASA style of fueling utility-level electric power plants at least offer a realistic/practical enough vision to encourage green hydrogen firms to keep going forward with their efforts? Are such efforts practical and potentially valuable for future renewable energy planning in the years to come?

I am no expert, so I have simply raised a point. I thank in advance those who might reply with their views.

My thanks again to Keith Williams for the article.

Keith Williams profile picture
@Ricardo Woof Thank you for the kind comment.

I guess my point about hydrogen is that it is a detour. With the First Solar/NelASA project, you start with electricity produced from solar PV and then use that electricity to make hydrogen.... only to at a later stage make electricity again. So when the electricity finally gets used, you have a fraction of the electricity which was initially made with solar PV.

The point is that hydrogen is not a source of renewable energy. It is a device for storing and moving the energy. I argue that it is a very inefficient way of storing and transporting energy. HVDC cables move power very efficiently and this does not require buildout of a completely new hydrogen pipe network.

The storage problem looks different depending on your frame of reference. Using an outdated view of power supply, solar PV makes electricity during the day and there is a massive need for storage to cover out of sunshine hours. This misses the point that solar PV is a distributed asset. In my country (Australia), our evening demand (6-9pm) along the east coast, where most people live, could be satisfied by accessing solar power made in Western Australia (one of the world's best solar assets) in the afternoon (3 hr time zone difference) and shipping it to the east coast via HVDC cabling.

Grids always have to match production with use, but the new view of grids involves balancing intermittent supply (from solar PV and wind) with managed demand (eg time shifting use) and buying demand from organisations willing to sell their power requirement. The bottom line seems to be that the most critical storage requirement is ~4hr and this is being successfully met through grid scale batteries becoming part of almost all solar PV and wind developments. Note that solar PV and wind often have different timing in their maximum production.

A really big opportunity that will become available soon is linking a fully electrified transport system to the grid for storage and accessing power. BEVs have big batteries. Our power requirements could be met from the battery of a Tesla vehicle for almost 1 week. This is going to open up a huge energy management system when it gets sorted out.

I just don't see why one would add another whole system (hydrogen) to a modern grid network based on solar PV, wind, batteries, pumped hydro and demand management. It has to involve a massive increase in cost for little benefit.
Davewmart profile picture
@Ricardo Woof Using green hydrogen will have significant although far from intolerable cost penalties:


' Total global hydrogen use could therefore grow 5-7-fold from today’s 115 Mt per annum to reach 500 to 800 Mt by mid-century,2 with hydrogen (and its derivatives) accounting for 15-20%3 of final energy demand, on top of the close to 70% provided by direct electricity. All of this hydrogen must be produced in a zero-carbon fashion via electrolysis using zero-carbon electricity (“green hydrogen”) or in a low-carbon fashion using natural gas reforming plus CCS (“blue hydrogen”) if deployed in a manner that achieves near-total CO2 capture and very low methane leakage. Blue hydrogen will often be cost-effective during the transition, particularly via retrofit of existing grey hydrogen, and in the long term in locations with very low gas prices. But green hydrogen will be lower cost in most locations over the long term, with dramatic production cost reductions to below $2/kg possible during the 2020s, and further falls thereafter. Hydrogen production will therefore be predominantly via a green route (ca. 85%) and generate very large electricity demand, increasing the total required supply of zero-carbon electricity by 30,000 TWh or more on top of the 90,000 TWh potentially needed for direct electrification. Strategies to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century in both developed and developing countries must therefore recognise the major role of green hydrogen and the implications for required clean electricity supply – which, although very significant, is physically and financially feasible.4They must also ensure a sufficiently rapid take-off of hydrogen production and use during the 2020s to make it feasible to reach 2050 targets. Achieving this will require policy support because using hydrogen in end applications often imposes a green premium (versus fossil fuel technologies) even if clean hydrogen production costs fall dramatically. Those policies must combine broad policy instruments such as carbon prices, with support focused on specific sector applications and on the development of geographically-focused clusters of clean hydrogen production and use.'

(pg 10)

But as itemised in the study, to achieve decarbonisation there is no alternative.

Check out page 19, where they list steel, long distance shipping and aviation, and fertiliser as applications where hydrogen is essential, and if you don't use it, it ain't gonna happen.

As they say on page 36, ' Use of clean hydrogen would have a significant impact on the price of intermediate products, but a negligible impact on final product prices in most sectors'

So dismissing hydrogen is dismissing actually carrying out decarbonisation.

It is early stage, for instance current electrolyser capacity is only a few hundred megawatts, but falling prices of renewables and electrolysers, down to $300KW in China, mean that that is rapidly expanding to tens of gigawatts.

Here is Topsoe Haldor's SOEC:

' Haldor Topsoe will invest in a manufacturing facility producing highly efficient solid oxide electrolyzers (SOEC) with a total capacity of 500 megawatt per year with the option to expand to 5 gigawatt per year.

With efficiencies above 90%, Topsoe’s proprietary SOEC electrolyzers offer superior performance in electrolysis of water into hydrogen—e.g., 30% greater output—when compared to standard alkaline or PEM electrolyzers. The superior efficiency stems from the fact that the SOEC works at temperatures above 700 ˚C, which sets it apart from standard electrolysis technologies. The facility is expected to be operational by 2023. '


500MW is proper industrial scale.
We are getting there, and seeking to dismiss green hydrogen because it is not currently the leading producer of hydrogen is not too sensible.

It is Topsoe Haldor technology being used in the vast Saudi renewables to ammonia project, for export and conversion to hydrogen.
Disagree with this article? Submit your own. To report a factual error in this article, . Your feedback matters to us!

Related Stocks

SymbolLast Price% Chg
Ballard Power Systems Inc.
Alphabet Inc.
Alphabet Inc.
Plug Power Inc.
The AES Corporation

Related Analysis

To ensure this doesn’t happen in the future, please enable Javascript and cookies in your browser.
Is this happening to you frequently? Please report it on our feedback forum.
If you have an ad-blocker enabled you may be blocked from proceeding. Please disable your ad-blocker and refresh.