Africa, Middle East set to lead green hydrogen race

Chief Europe Correspondent
Source: International Renewable Energy Agency • Units are in exajoules (EJ). Potential is calculated based on land availability. Water availability is not considered.

Africa, the Americas, the Middle East and Oceania are the regions with the highest technical potential to produce green hydrogen, while Europe is likely to become a key import market, according to a recent report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

“Green hydrogen could be most economical in locations that have the optimal combination of abundant renewable resources, space for solar or wind farms, and access to water, along with the capability to export to large demand centres,” the IRENA report states.

The map above outlines the global potential for producing green hydrogen for less than $1.50 per kilogram by 2050.

Renewable hydrogen is currently priced at €2.50-€5.50 ($2.70-$7.60) per kilogram, according to the EU’s Hydrogen Strategy, which is four times more expensive than hydrogen made from fossil fuels.

Costs for renewable hydrogen are going down quickly. Costs for electrolyzers dropped 60% in the last decade and are expected to halve by 2030, the EU strategy states. In regions where renewable energy is cheap, green hydrogen is expected to compete with fossil fuel-based hydrogen by the end of this decade.

Water is an important resource in green hydrogen production, but IRENA’s analysis didn’t factor in water availability when assessing potential.

Countries across Africa, for example, that are surrounded by desert don’t have abundant water access. Green hydrogen production in those areas would require desalinizing ocean and sea water, which is also set to drive up energy use, said Claude Mourey, director for hydrogen and new energies for the Middle East and North Africa at Wood Mackenzie.

“Whether the technical potential can be realised will also depend on soft factors like government support, the investment climate and political stability,” the IRENA report states.