Assessing the risks, rewards and reality of a regional hydrogen industry

Posted on September 01, 2021 | By Terri Coles | 0 Comments

illustration of hydrogen


The only thing new about the global climate crisis is that it’s part of our new ‘normal’. Wildfires in several parts of the country this past summer, preceded by record-breaking high temperatures, simply put the seriousness of that crisis into ever-sharper focus.

One path to slowing climate change is the decarbonization of energy systems. But many of the standard greenhouse gas mitigation strategies aren’t going to get us to net-zero carbon emission goals, said Sven Scholtysik, research manager at the Offshore Energy Research Association (OERA). Scholtysik gave the example of the push for electrification. The question is how far electrification can reduce emissions—and is there anything we can do beyond that?

“Of course, the answer is yes, there is something left—and that’s when hydrogen becomes really interesting,” Scholtysik said. Hydrogen’s potential as both an alternative fuel and a decarbonization strategy is being explored across Canada and around the world. Work is being done on its potential for everything from fuel cell technology to home heating and industry.

“I think that as a region, there’s a lot of really strong opportunities for us to produce and use hydrogen”
Sabina Russell, Principal and co-founder, Zen Energy Solutions

In Canada, that work is still in the early stages, but several studies point to hydrogen as a key part of Canada’s path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The federal government has invested $1.5 billion into the Low-carbon and Zero-emissions Fuels Fund, meant to increase the production and use of low-carbon fuels like hydrogen. And in December 2020, the federal government launched a national hydrogen strategic framework with a goal of positioning the country as a global hydrogen leader.

“I think that as a region, there’s a lot of really strong opportunities for us to produce and use hydrogen,” said Sabina Russell, principal and co-founder of Zen Energy Solutions. In October 2020, Zen completed a feasibility study on hydrogen opportunities in the Maritimes, commissioned by OERA; in July 2021, a complementary report looking at the potential for Newfoundland and Labrador was released. The two reports call for 22 per cent of the energy delivered in the Maritimes and eight per cent of the energy delivered in Newfoundland and Labrador to come from hydrogen by 2050. Additionally, the reports highlighted the export potential of hydrogen for the region, thanks to its existing renewable hydroelectricity energy.

As New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador do their own calculations on hydrogen, a series of opportunities stand out.


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