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Hydrogen power touted for emissions-reducing potential

THE ECONOMIC Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) said Southeast Asia stands to benefit from hydrogen, which it said holds the potential for helping countries hit their net zero emissions targets within 30 years.

“We need hydrogen, that is (for) decarbonization and also the net zero emissions. Many OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries set the target for the net zero emissions around 2050,” ERIA Special Advisor on Energy Affairs Shigeru Kimura said during a virtual briefing Wednesday.

The Philippines stands to benefit from using hydrogen power since coal and renewable energy (RE) technologies can be used to produce it, he said. He said hydrogen can be made from coal gasification or electricity generated from renewables.

“I think (the) Philippines is a rich coal mining country so (it can use) gasification technologies with CCS (carbon capture and storage) to produce the hydrogen. It is also rich in geothermal, which is an RE. It can use electricity from geothermal to… produce the hydrogen,” Mr. Kimura said.

If the country becomes a hydrogen power producer, it can export to Japan as well as other neighboring countries, he said.

The Department of Energy (DoE) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Tokyo-based Hydrogen Technology, Inc. to explore the potential of hydrogen as a possible source of power. Earlier this year, the DoE signed a similar agreement with Australian research and development company Star Scientific Ltd.

Gerry C. Arances, executive director of environmental think tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, said that while hydrogen is not among the greenhouse gases which directly contribute to the rise of global temperatures, there is “much concern” about the way it is produced.

“Hydrogen can be produced from either low-carbon or carbon-intensive electricity, but it is also a fact that today, hydrogen from renewable energy processes are minimal compared to those from fossil fuel-based ones. In Europe, where the hype around hydrogen has been around longer, only less than 0.1% of hydrogen produced is in fact ‘green’,” Mr. Arances told BusinessWorld in an e-mail.

He said the DoE needs to address the climate crisis by focusing on tapping into the country’s potential for renewables.

“We do not have the luxury to devote years pursuing technology that may or may not be a solution, especially when it provides fossil fuel industries (a) reason to operate as usual and even expand… Hydrogen is but another deviation from tapping this vast RE potential and pursuing 100% renewable power systems in the Philippines,” Mr. Arances said.

Public policy think tank Infrawatch said the government should support any technology which can help the country wean itself from fossil fuels but hydrogen technology should be further examined to see if it can contribute to carbon neutrality.

Infrawatch Convenor Terry L. Ridon said price should also be considered a factor.

“Due to prohibitive costs, there are only 20 CCUS (carbon capture, usage and storage) projects operating commercially around the world, which is certainly not enough to tackle the global climate crisis,” he told BusinessWorld in an e-mail on Wednesday. CCUS technology extracts hydrogen from fossil fuels.

He added that hydrogen produced from RE sources is even more “cost-prohibitive.”

“There are no large-scale power plants utilizing green hydrogen to power cities due to the high costs of electrolyzer technology,” Mr. Ridon said. If hydrogen producers cannot compete with other technologies, the Philippine market will have a difficult time adopting it, he said. — Angelica Y. Yang

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