Hydrogen has recently emerged as a key prospect for enabling European and global energy transformations to achieve carbon neutrality. Green and low-carbon hydrogen could help decarbonize high-emitting sectors, including steel, chemicals, and transportation. In this interdisciplinary project, researchers explore the underlying technological possibilities and economic structures of an emerging hydrogen economy and analyze their impacts on decarbonization pathways.
Considering the trade-offs of alternative production pathways
As a fuel, hydrogen releases no carbon dioxide. However, its production pathway is decisive to assess its overall carbon footprint and sustainability. Green hydrogen, produced with electricity from renewable resources, is the only available zero-carbon option. However, the same renewable resources are needed to replace fossil-based power generation, placing green hydrogen production in direct competition with decarbonization strategies in the electricity sector. Alternatives include low-carbon hydrogen production from natural gas in combination with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies (so-called blue hydrogen). Critics of these technologies highlight the danger of creating new lock-ins in fossil-based infrastructure as well low public acceptance, particularly in Germany.
Stimulating an informed public debate
The emerging technology pathways will not only shape international decarbonization efforts but will remake the geopolitics of energy in the process. They will reshape trade relationships, create new resource dependencies, and impact global power structures. This in turn will shape actor strategies in the field. In this project, RIFS researchers will conduct inter-disciplinary assessments of different technology options and explore their implications for the international political economy of a global transition to sustainable energy. Their approach combines stakeholder dialogue with in-depth empirical analysis to stimulate informed public debate on the political choices in this emerging technology field.