Fri. May 20th, 2022

The FT is correct to focus on the potential for hydrogen to replace natural gas in Europe (“War bolsters the quest for a hydrogen alternative to gas but hurdles are high”, OpinionMarch 5).

Unfortunately, the arguments made in that piece do not fully reflect the reality of hydrogen development today. As your columnist John Dizard points out, hydrogen is already in common use across a range of processes – and the energy industry has the apparatus and focus across technologies to ensure that hydrogen deployment will not compromise safety.

As the chairman of FiveT Hydrogen, which runs a clean hydrogen infrastructure investment fund, I believe there are broader concerns around the need for skilled workers and raw material requirements, which are challenges across the entire energy spectrum.

Recycling will, in part, address this – though requirements for hydrogen pale in front of the needs of battery electric vehicles, for instance.

Hydrogen is an incredibly versatile fuel that is badly needed to address the twin climate and geopolitical crises that Europe faces. As an energy carrier, it bridges the gap between electricity and fuel, helping to decarbonise the full energy system.

Crucially, it is our best bet to replace fossil fuels and gases in segments which cannot be easily electrified, like heavy industries and heavy mobility.

The main issue today is not one of technology – which is maturing in all segments – but of investment risk. Governments must act early in this decade to build hydrogen infrastructure to stimulate private investment, which remains very risky at current demand levels.

This effort would be significantly cheaper than the support Europe has provided to renewables since the early 2000s and will similarly enable an energy system transformation.

The only difference between then and now is that climate policy and security policy have become intertwined, requiring massive and immediate action.

Hydrogen will not solve today’s energy crisis – but it can enable European energy independence and global sustainability for years to come if supported now.

Pierre-Étienne Franc
Chairman, FiveT Hydrogen
Zurich, Switzerland

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