The Massive Challenge of Hydrogen — Florian Kern, Ep. 63

I came away from this conversation with a deeper understanding of the massive energy requirements for industry. Replacing coal or gas - fossil fuels - for the industry is a huge challenge that requires giving up fossil fuels in other areas of life, in order to enable either the remaining fossil fuels to be used in industry or to enable large-scale renewable energy infrastructure to produce green hydrogen.

This week we speak with Florian Kern. He is the Head of the research field of Ecological Economics and Environmental Policy at the Institute for Ecological Economy Research in Berlin. He holds a PhD in Science and Technology Policy from the University of Sussex.

Florian and I discuss the project: Hydrogen as a Panacea? Focused on the challenges of hydrogen and what needs to be done before large-scale deployment occurs. We talk about hydrogen-ready infrastructure – and whether this is just a PR exercise on the part of the gas sector. Or, is there really a future of hydrogen being transported like gas is today.

This conversation with Florian delivers a fairly objective – and lively – discussion on the requirements of what is needed to make the hydrogen economy part of the industrial base. As you’ll hear, the electrification of the energy sector is essential to make hydrogen a reality for industry.

I came away from this conversation with a deeper understanding of the massive energy requirements for industry. Replacing coal or gas – fossil fuels – for the industry is a huge challenge that requires giving up fossil fuels in other areas of life, in order to enable either the remaining fossil fuels to be used in industry or to enable large-scale renewable energy infrastructure to produce green hydrogen. 

By the end of this episode, you should understand that to build the renewable energy infrastructure to produce green hydrogen, the electrification of transport and residential heating needs to occur first. Once sufficient renewables are built to meet everyday uses, then hydrogen can be produced from renewables.

For me, this episode delivers a new appreciation of the scale of renewables that need to be deployed to produce hydrogen. The promise that the new gas infrastructure being built for hydrogen appears far off because of the massive amounts needed for industry. In short, the energy transition includes hydrogen, but we need to rationally assess the demand for hydrogen, the cost, and how it can be produced to meet the requirements for industrial processes.

Follow along with a transcript of this Interview in Otter.ai (the transcription is automatically done and the transcript does contain some errors)

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Outline

The massive challenge of hydrogen:.

0:02

How did you become interested in this topic?

4:27

Why is it so hard for new technologies to be introduced into the energy system?

7:32

What are the applications where hydrogen makes no sense?

13:06

What is so-called “green hydrogen”?

17:59

Is hydrogen the solution for everything?

20:55

What are some of the key technological developments that need to be solved in hydrogen?

26:05

Are you saying that you need dedicated infrastructure for green energy?

32:19

Why is it that we’re only talking about green hydrogen? Isn’t that the case that if we want to quick scale up

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