Hydrogen and Climate Change All you need to know

The Basics & The Gaps is the Future Cleantech Architects flagship series of factsheets and animations which aims to summarise the key facts and figures on some of the most challenging issues and technological innovations needed to reach net-zero.


Hydrogen’s role in the German and European path to climate neutrality is highly controversial. But what is the current state of development of this critical industrial raw material? How “green” is hydrogen to date? What challenges do we face in producing the quantities of hydrogen needed in the future? 
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[1] CO2 Emissions 2018

Total CO2 2018: Climate Watch

Aviation (CO2 only): ”CO2 emissions from commercial aviation, 2018”, ICCT 2019, p. 1

Hydrogen (CO2 only): “The Future of Hydrogen”, 2019, IEA, p. 38

[2] Pure Hydrogen production 2018

“The Future of Hydrogen”, 2019, IEA, p. 32

Total pure use is approximately 73 MtH2. Gas, coal, dedicated electricity based production is based on energy inputs, neglecting differences in efficiency. Chloralkali is based on electricity use in by-products. Gap to total pure use is counted towards gas and coal, based on ratio in by-product.

[3] Hydrogen Use

Pure Hydrogen use 2018: “The Future of Hydrogen”, 2019, IEA, p. 32

Ammonia for non-fertilizer use (approximately 20%) counted towards other.

Future uses: “Net Zero by 2050”, IEA 2020, p. 99

[4] Historical hydrogen use


[5] Hydrogen production costs, emissions, and cost reductions

Electrolysis cost: “Green Hydrogen Cost Reduction”, IRENA, 2020, p. 91

Assumptions therein: 770 $/kW, 65% efficiency (LHV), 3200 h/y full load, 10% WACC, 10 year life time; reduced to 130 $/kW, WACC 6%

Fossil with CCS cost (excluding CO2 price): “The Future of Hydrogen”, 2019, IEA, p. 52

Fossil cost (excluding CO2 price): “The Future of Hydrogen”, 2019, IEA, p. 52

Electrolysis emissions (assuming 5 gCO2e/kWh (life cycle) and 50 kWh/kgH2): “Understanding future emissions from low-carbon power systems by integration of life cycle assessment and integrated energy modelling”, Pehl et al., Nature Energy, 2017, Volume 2 , pages. 939–945

Fossil/CCS emissions (Assuming 3.7 kgCH4/kgH2, 0.4% leakage rate, GWP 86, 90% capture): IEA/CATF 2021

[6] Industrialized clean electricity needs per capita

Based on EU data as exemplary industrialized economy.

Electrification and hydrogen needs: “Net-Zero Europe”, McKinsey, 2020, p. 84

Renewable, nuclear, fossil energy 2020: IEA

Present fossil H2 use is included as hypothetical electricity need for today (based on 50 kWh/kgH2):
“Green hydrogen in Europe – A regional assessment: Substituting existing production with electrolysis powered by renewables”, G. Kakoulaki et al., Energy Conversion and Management, Volume 228, 2021, 113649

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