IEA touts hydrogen and batteries as key to COVID-19 recovery

THE International Energy Agency has praised the economic and environmental potential of renewable hydrogen and batteries as it urges world governments to consider the decarbonisation commitments they made before the outbreak of COVID-19.
IEA touts hydrogen and batteries as key to COVID-19 recovery IEA touts hydrogen and batteries as key to COVID-19 recovery IEA touts hydrogen and batteries as key to COVID-19 recovery IEA touts hydrogen and batteries as key to COVID-19 recovery IEA touts hydrogen and batteries as key to COVID-19 recovery

Batteries and hydrogen offer long term benefits

Mark Tilly



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For weeks, the IEA has urged world governments to make investment into renewable energy part of their economic rescue packages in the wake of the pandemic.

"Governments need to make sure they keep clean energy transitions front of mind as they respond to this fast-evolving crisis," IEA executive director Fatih Birol said in March.

In analysis released today, the agency said among the broad portfolio of technology needed to decarbonise the economy, batteries and electrolysers stood out, thanks to them being small in size, modular and well suited for mass manufacturing. 

"Cost reductions like those experienced through the large-scale production of solar PV are not inconceivable and, in fact, are already underway," it said. 

It noted batteries were well ahead of electrolysers in development and commercial viability thanks to an uptick in production. 

Today global manufacturing operations can produce around 320 gigawatt-hours of batteries per year for electric vehicles, a massive jump compared to 100GWh of batteries required for EVs sold in 2019, the agency said. 

This is forecasted to reach 1500GWh by 2030, according to the IEA's World Energy Outlook, if government's long-term electric vehicle targets are to come to fruition. 

In Australia, while EV sales still only represent about 1% of the new car sales market, Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland are all at various stages of implementing grid-scale batteries into their electricity grids. 

The IEA said more spending in batteries by governments could fast-track the deployment of more wind and solar and would send strong signals to the automotive industry of governments' intention to decarbonise transportation networks. 

It said given the electrolysers and batteries use the same scientific principle of electrochemistry, electrolysers stand to benefit from what industry has learned bringing down the cost of batteries. 

Electrolysers use electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen via electrolysis. 

"The knowledge acquired from batteries should spill over into the scaling up of electrolyser production, enabling faster cost reductions," it said. 

The agency highlighted the bulk of hydrogen produced today is done via coal or gas, releasing 800 million tonnes of C02 per annum globally. 

"Clean hydrogen and hydrogen-derived fuels could be vital for decarbonising sectors where emissions are proving particularly hard to reduce, such as shipping, aviation, long-haul trucks, the iron and steel or chemical industries," it said.

Currently Europe leads the way in electrolyser production, with a manufacturing capacity of 1.2GW per year, according to the IEA which said the next two years could set a new global record of installed electrolyser capacity, from 170MW in 2019, to 730MW in 2021. 

"To ensure that such momentum is kept up after the Covid-19 crisis, it will be important for governments to reassure investors about their continued commitment to hydrogen," it said. 

This morning the federal government announced it would back a A$300 million hydrogen fund, to support the development of Australia's hydrogen industry. 

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