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Hydrogen can carry renewable energy

The applications for fuel cells where hydrogen is converted into electricity are almost infinite. Hydrogen is playing a key role in Sweden’s transition to a climate-neutral society.

Hydrogen is not an energy source in itself, but rather an energy carrier. This means that surplus electricity from renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, can be converted into hydrogen and stored. This is usually performed by means of electrolysis, where water is split into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity. When the demand for electricity increases again, the hydrogen can be converted back into electricity. A fuel cell is used to convert the hydrogen into electricity, where a chemical reaction produces electricity, water vapor and heat.

Fuel cells can be used in a variety of areas. Fuel cells can power different types of vehicles, such as cars, buses, trains, trucks, motorcycles, ships and aircraft. However, they can also be used to power properties, base stations, power plants and telephone and electronics chargers (in microscale). Through hydrogen storage, a property can become completely self-sufficient in terms of electricity and heating all year round.

– “There is much to suggest that we will need to double our electricity consumption within ten years, particularly as industry switches over to fossil-free production. As a result, a rapid expansion of electricity production will be required, and we will need to utilise the surplus electricity that is periodically generated by the renewable energy types. By storing this energy in the form of hydrogen, we can even out the peaks and troughs in the electricity supply,” says Anna Alexandersson, Unit Manager the field of Energy Conversion at RISE.

Hydrogen storage plays a key role

From the perspective of the energy system as a whole, hydrogen storage can play a key role, with surplus energy from solar cells and wind turbines being stored and then channelled to where the energy is required, for example to industries or filling stations for various types of vehicles.

– “The hydrogen technology has many advantages. It is clean, storage is energy efficient and it provides the opportunity to optimise both the energy and transport systems,” says Anna Alexandersson.

In addition, investing in hydrogen technology has positive socio-economic effects as it generates new business and jobs, reducing the need for imports and increasing GDP.

This is urgent. The regulations ought to be put in place quickly

New regulations needed

In parallel with the development of the technology, it is important to work on the regulations, Anna Alexandersson emphasises. The existing regulations relating to hydrogen have mainly been designed for the chemical industry, where hydrogen has long been used. New regulations are now required – European, national and local.

– “The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, municipalities and the emergency services are examples of areas of society that need regulations regarding hydrogen to which they can relate,” says Anna Alexandersson.

– “This is urgent. The regulations ought to be put in place quickly,” she stresses.

RISE has the experience and expertise

RISE has extensive experience of working with hydrogen and wide-ranging expertise across the entire field, both in terms of research and development, as well as within training and advice. We also have experts at system level and within business development, for example, which makes it possible to offer complete solutions for those investing in this area.

Published: 2021-08-31