5 min read

#6 - Green hydrogen, good hydrogen

#6 - Green hydrogen, good hydrogen

πŸ’‘ One idea: Green hydrogen, good hydrogen

πŸ“ˆ One data figure: Internet, 20% of global electricity demand by 2030

✨ One success: AgriSound, better knowledge for bee health

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πŸ’‘ Green hydrogen, good hydrogen

Although hydrogen certainly is a very promising technology and source of energy, its prospects have not convinced everyone. Lets us dive into the controversies and perspectives of the hydrogen market.

Globally, hydrogen is today a $100bn market. The momentum is there, and it is growing worldwide. Asia is the biggest market (48%), followed by the Americas (22%) and Europe (18%). The industrial sector largely drives demand as refining and chemicals industries account for more than 80% of hydrogen consumption. But we still are somewhere between β€œwhether” and β€œhow”.

According to a PwC study, demand will only grow moderately until 2030, before the market finally gets some pace. By 2050, hydrogen demand could vary from 150 to 500 million tonnes per year, depending on global climate ambitions and technology evolution. In the long term, hydrogen is set to power more or less everything from freight vehicles to aircrafts, steel production to domestic heating. Slight hiccup, hydrogen is not the clean source of energy we often think of it as, and remains for many a dangerous distraction from more efficient ways of decarbonising the economy.

Evolution of the global demand for hydrogen (Hydrogen Council)

It is here essential to remember that hydrogen is not a primary source of energy; it is only a carrier. This is because the electrolysers needed to split water into oxygen and hydrogen are powered by a significant amount of electricity. Depending on where this electricity comes from, the hydrogen produced is more or less climate-friendly. Green, blue or grey, here is a great article about the colours of hydrogen. Now (2022), almost all hydrogen produced worldwide is β€œgrey,” which means it is produced from natural gas and therefore emits tonnes and tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere.

Green hydrogen is produced using renewable electricity such as hydro, solar or wind, and could very well play a significant role in achieving the Paris Agreement goals. But current green hydrogen projects operate almost exclusively at the pre-commercial stage. With limited capacity, the green hydrogen sector only accounts for 1% of the market. The challenges to overcome are twofold. The first one is the availability of abundant, reliable and affordable sources of renewable energy. Secondly, the lack of infrastructure for transport and storage is hampering production.

One of the biggest green hydrogen plants in the world (Netherlands)

As of now, green hydrogen is produced at $3 to $8 per kilogramme and has to compete with grey hydrogen costing only $1 to $2 per kg. With the costs of renewables decreasing worldwide, green hydrogen prices should fall accordingly. By 2050, green hydrogen production costs are expected to range from $1 to $1.5 per kg. If on top of that a price is put on carbon in the meantime, green hydrogen should eventually supplant its C02-intensive counterpart.

As many countries are drafting long-term hydrogen plans, investing public money and bridging the gap between projects and private capital, let us make sure green hydrogen prevails. The race is on.

πŸ“ˆ Internet: 20% of global electricity demand by 2030

For many of us, the internet is an ethereal cloud that is not part of the physical world. So how could it affect the climate? There is a huge amount of mobile networks, satellites and data centres across the world, all powered with electricity that is itself often produced with fuel or even coal. On top of that, the devices we use to access the internet have a carbon footprint, coming from both the electricity we use to power them and the manufacturing.

It is estimated that the internet will account for 20% of global electricity consumption by 2030, with data centers alone using a third of that. As of now (2022), the internet is responsible for 1 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, which is about 2% of total global emissions.

Data centres and networks are driving demand up (source: here)

When using the internet, the carbon footprint per click is pretty small, but with billions of people connected several hours a day worldwide, the overall effect becomes truly significant. To give you a ballpark figure of your online carbon footprint, here are useful numbers:

  • A Tweet: 0.02g.
  • A Google search: 0.2g.
  • An email: from 1g to 4g.
  • An hour on Netflix: about 36g.

The online world is certainly not slowing down. Tech giants are very much aware of the increasing scrutiny of the public on their carbon footprint. For example, streaming on YouTube alone is responsible for more than 2 million tonnes of CO2 per year. Fortunately, most of them are already taking action, notably by improving data center technologies and by staying away from carbon-intensive energy sources. Whether we like them or not, Facebook and Amazon are among the biggest renewable energy purchasers in the world.

On a personal level or for your company, you can give up your traditional web search engine and switch to Ecosia, or host your website on GreenGeeks. Even easier, simply spend less time online and go explore the real world (says the guy who just spent another hour on his laptop writing this newsletter).

✨ AgriSound, better knowledge for bee health

The new jewel of the British AgriTech scene is making buzz. Founded by Casey Woodward, AgriSound mission is to develop new ways of better monitoring pollinators' health and insect biodiversity. Given that 70% of all food crops rely on pollinators, the applications and the market addressed by the startup could be pretty huge. In particular, AgriSound products and services improve yields, reduce the need for herbicides and pesticides and promote sustainable agricultural practices.

The IoT sensors listen to the sound of nature

The team of scientists and engineers have developed a unique mix of remote sensors to capture and analyse metrics such as humidity and temperature, but also the "sound of nature". Insect activity is recorded and directly transmitted through the internet for analysis. By using the technology, farmers and beekeepers can better appreciate what goes on out there and make better-informed decisions.

AgriSound already offers software and hardware for beehive and wild pollinator monitoring to its clients in Europe, US and Australia. But one of the startup's major successes is the recent announcement of a 3-year partnership with the British retailer Marks & Spencer. Together, the startup and the giant will pilot an in-field sensor to help farmers maintain the quality of products and improve crop yields through better management of pollinators. Promising!

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