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The Role of Electricity-based Hydrogen in the Emerging Power-to-X Economy


As energy system research into high shares of renewables has developed, so have the perspectives of the fundamental nature of a highly renewable economy. Early energy system transition research suggested that current fossil fuel energy systems would transition to a ‘Hydrogen Economy’, whereas more recent insights suggest that a ‘Power-to-X Economy’ may be a more appropriate term, as renewable electricity will become both the most important primary and final energy carrier through various Power-to-X conversion routes across the energy system. This paper provides a detailed overview on research insights of recent years on the core elements of the Power-to-X Economy and the role of hydrogen based on latest research results. These results suggest that, by 2050, upwards of 61,737 TWhLHV of hydrogen will be required to fully defossilise the global energy-industry system. Hydrogen, therefore, emerges as a central intermediate energy carrier and its relevance is driven by significant cost reductions in renewable electricity, especially of solar photovoltaics and wind power. Efficiency and cost drivers position direct electrification as the primary solution for defossilisation of the global energy-industry system; however, electron-to-molecule routes are essential for the large subset of remaining energy-related demands including chemical production, marine and aviation fuels, and steelmaking.

Funding source: The authors gratefully acknowledge the public financing of Business Finland for the ‘P2XENABLE’ project under the number 8588/31/2019, the Academy of Finland for the ‘Industrial Emissions & CDR’ project under the number 329313, and the LUT University Research Platform ‘GreenRenew’, which partly funded this research.
Related subjects: Applications & Pathways
Countries: Finland

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