Why is Canadian water sold so cheaply

Hydrogen could transform Canada's energy sector

Curtain up on the hydrogen economy. As an alternative fuel, blue and green hydrogen should offer a solution for a low-carbon economy in the future.

The hydrogen economy will reduce emissions and stimulate the economy

Hydrogen (H2) plays a key role in the Canadian government's climate protection goals. So far, extensive energy resources (fossil and renewable) have kept energy prices low for industry and consumers. In addition, sometimes little political commitment and a strong lobby in the natural gas, oil and coal producing provinces prevent the development of a local market for H2 and the establishment of the necessary infrastructure. This should now turn decisively. Canada's climate goals under the Liberal government are ambitious. The provinces, some grudgingly, are struggling with CO2 taxes and the pressure to present their own emission reduction plans for their regions.

Hydrogen will be part of the solution to Canada's climate goals by 2050

Canada aims to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHGE) emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The country wants to become CO2 neutral by 2050. In addition to investments in green electricity and energy-efficient buildings as well as the electrification of transport, hydrogen is to play a leading role in the Canadian transport sector in the future. With almost 30 percent of the THGE, the transport sector is a critical area for realizing climate protection goals.

The idea of ​​a diversified local hydrogen economy has recently been gaining traction again. Regulatory and market conditions are now moving in favor of H2 as a competitive fuel in Canada. This is driven by the government's climate protection goals, the introduction of a CO2 tax in 2019, the funding of ZEV vehicles and falling production costs for H2. Low electricity prices in provinces such as Quebec, British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario (hydropower, nuclear power) offer ideal conditions for the production of green hydrogen by means of electrolysis. In addition, Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan offer good opportunities for blue H2 production through their natural gas production.

Local hydrogen market is in its infancy

However, as the Canadian Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (NRCan) confirms, Canada's H2 and fuel cell sectors depend largely on demand in foreign markets. In Canada, there is currently no attractive market for hydrogen as a fuel. And without a customer market of its own, the local distribution and refueling infrastructure also falls by the wayside.

While companies such as Mercedes, Loop Energy or Ballard produce fuel cells in Canada, fuel cell vehicles (FCEV) have hardly been used in the Canadian transport sector. For example, there are no H2 buses in Canada. Companies such as Walmart and Canadian Tire already use FCEV transport vehicles in their logistics centers, but according to NRC there are only about 550 vehicles of this type in operation. The sale of fuel cell cars in the consumer sector is also negligible. With a total of two gas stations (Vancouver, Quebec City) and an announced third for Montreal, this is not surprising.

Therefore, public funding for the expansion of FCEV transport fleets for local public transport (school and regular buses) as well as long-distance transport should become part of the federal government's new hydrogen strategy.

Efforts to establish H2 as an alternative fuel in the past came to nothing. Neither regionally nor federally there was a coordinated development for the construction of a newly designed energy system, according to Corporate Knights (CK) - a Canadian research and media company for "clean" capitalism. So the time is ripe for a comprehensive hydrogen strategy.

Hydrogen timetable expected shortly

Both the federal government of Canada and individual provinces of the country are currently working on hydrogen strategies. The federal government was announced for the summer. Due to the ongoing leave of absence from the Canadian parliament until the end of September, drafting is now expected in the coming weeks. Ottawa has been working on its hydrogen strategy in collaboration with industry for three years. Among other things, this is to generate an H2 sector of around 4 billion in size with 100,000 new jobs and a nationwide network of hydrogen filling stations by 2050. The main fields of application for H2 are heat for industry and buildings, energy generation and use as fuel for trucks, buses, trains and ships where batteries are not practical.

Alberta and British Columbia will adopt their strategies in fall 2020 after British Columbia completed an H2 study in 2019. Regionally different priorities should be set for the production and use of hydrogen.

British Columbia's Energy Minister Ralston recently promised at the leading f-cell + HFC trade fair in Vancouver that British Columbia would only support low-carbon hydrogen strategies - that is, H2 production from renewable energies or from natural gas with CO2 capture and storage. By 2050, the province wants to achieve 30 percent of its total CO2 savings targets through the use of hydrogen alone. The province on the west coast has been one of the world's leading regions in the commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, which are exported from there to Asia (focus), Europe and the USA.

Alberta commissioned its hydrogen study in May 2020. Above all, the province wants to commercialize its rich natural gas reserves for the production of blue hydrogen. H2 is already being produced and used in the province for the oil refinery. In addition to its wealth of raw materials, Alberta's advantage could also lie in the existing energy infrastructure and stimulate commercialization for export to Europe or Asia.

By Daniel Lenkeit | Toronto