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Hydrogen Production Cost Forecasts since the 1970s and Implications for Technological Development


This study reviews the extant literature on hydrogen production cost forecasts to identify and analyze the historical trend of such forecasts in order to explore the feasibility of wider adoption. Hydrogen is an important energy source that can be used to achieve a carbon-neutral society, but the widespread adoption of hydrogen production technologies is hampered by the high costs. The production costs vary depending on the technology employed: gray, renewable electrolysis, or biomass. The study identifies 174 production cost forecast data points from articles published between 1979 and 2020 and makes a comparative assessment using non-parametric statistical tests. The results show three different cost forecast trends across technologies. First, the production cost of gray hydrogen showed an increasing trend until 2015, but started declining after 2015. Second, the renewable electrolysis hydrogen cost was the highest of all, but has shown a gradual declining trend since 2015. Finally, the biomass hydrogen cost has been relatively cheaper up until 2015, after which it became the highest. Renewable electrolysis and biomass hydrogen will be potential candidates (as principal drivers) to reduce CO2 emissions in the future, but renewable electrolysis hydrogen is more promising in this regard due to its declining production cost trend. Gray hydrogen can also be an alternative candidate to renewable electrolysis hydrogen because it can be equipped with carbon capture storage (CCS) to produce blue hydrogen, although we need to consider additional production costs incurred by the introduction of CCS. The study discusses the technological development and policy implications of the results on hydrogen production costs.

Funding source: This research was funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) through a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKENHI) 20KK0106.
Related subjects: Policy & Socio-Economics
Countries: Japan

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