As renewable energy generation advances ever rapidly, the plunging cost of installed capacity creates its own pressure to phase out existing, fossil-based power generation. However, as the share of renewables increases, the challenge of supplying energy-on-demand, always taken for granted in existing fuel-based power stations, intensifies. Batteries and pumped hydroelectric energy storage systems, smart energy trading, and other innovations help mitigate this challenge, but the need remains to have an available carbon-free fuel – energy stored in molecules, rather than electrons – to substitute for at least a portion of the fossil fuels removed from the grid.
Hydrogen has emerged as the prime candidate for this fuel for multiple reasons, primary among them is that it can easily be synthesized with the use of excess electricity that is frequently available in renewable-dominated power grids. The process of water electrolysis, generating hydrogen from water and electricity, yields 100% green hydrogen whenever the electricity and water used are from renewable sources.
Hydrogen furthermore is useful as a precursor material in chemical industry, can be used to generate zero-emissions steel refining and green concrete, and supply heat, and can be fed to a fuel cell to generate electricity on demand in stationary and mobile, continuous and intermittent, large and small applications.
These inter-related aspects are known collectively as the Hydrogen Economy, and with low cost hydrogen conversion devices – Fuel Cells and Electrolyzers – combined with renewable power sources, will soon power the world for the same or lower costs than do fossil fuels today. Hydrogen is truly the fuel of the future.