• Hydrogen Economy
  • Hydrogen infrastructure
  • City Innovation
  • Decarbonization
  • Clean Energy

What Does a Hydrogen City Look Like?

May 08, 2020

Solar 3

While hydrogen city is a nebulous term, the concept may gain greater levels of familiarity in the coming decades. Generally, a hydrogen city can be defined as any city that is integrating hydrogen into its economy and infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions. Key points of integration include energy storage, transportation, and industry.

Why Cities?

Decarbonization needs to occur across the board, and cities provide ample opportunity for decarbonization initiatives for a variety of reasons. First, cities account for over 70% of the world’s carbon emissions despite only occupying 2% of its land. They also consume over two-thirds of the globe’s energy. Many major cities are situated along coasts, meaning they are often on the front lines of extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change. Such exposure provides more reasons to implement adaptation and mitigation measures.

Why Hydrogen?

With its potential for zero emissions and its applicability across all energy sectors, hydrogen is expected to play a key role in decarbonized economies going forward. Policymakers are beginning to support hydrogen as a tool in their energy policy toolbox. For example, France has laid out its hydrogen roadmap, Japan is shifting to a hydrogen-fueled society, and South Korea is envisioning three hydrogen cities by 2022.

Hydrogen’s recent momentum has been driven by technology improvements. Electrolyzers and fuel cells have experienced CAPEX declines. More importantly for green hydrogen production, renewable electricity from solar PV and wind have hit record lows. As a result, we have seen significant investment in hydrogen across the value chain. Challenges still face the hydrogen economy and hydrogen cities, but advances in recent years have been promising.

The Hydrogen City of Tomorrow

Hydrogen cities will likely take many forms, but the underlying theme is still the same: clean hydrogen will aid in reducing emissions. In the electricity space, hydrogen can store excess renewable electricity for longer durations than batteries to help with intermittency concerns. Hydrogen’s ability to operate as a storage medium will be crucial as greater levels of renewables are integrated into the grid. Cities can implement hydrogen-fueled public transit such as buses and trains. Many countries around the world have ambitious plans to increase their hydrogen refueling station deployments, a crucial step in advancing hydrogen infrastructure. In industrial centers, hydrogen is already used extensively, but it is produced via fossil fuels. In the hydrogen cities of tomorrow, green hydrogen can assist in reducing emissions in the industrial sector, which is notoriously difficult to decarbonize.

Going forward, many lessons can be learned from cities that begin to embrace hydrogen. How South Korea’s three hydrogen cities develop will provide a fundamental blueprint for the rest of the world. As the hydrogen economy advances, cities are poised to integrate hydrogen into their energy plans in pursuit of decarbonization.