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Hydrogen Economy in "Europe 2040"

Author

Ulli Lorenz

Aug 25, 2022

Hydrogen is „just“ an elementary molecule consisting of two hydrogen-atoms. Why is there so much fuss about this simple molecule that even a whole economy should or could be built upon it?

The reaction of hydrogen (H2) with oxygen releases a lot of energy while forming pure water. In the other direction, water can be divided into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen with the help of electricity (there are of cause also other hydrogen building reactions mostly built on fossil fuels/biomass); this is simple chemistry. Compared to fossil fuels, water is nearly unlimited on the planet.

Hydrogen is a lightweight gas, and depending on pressure, surface or chemical binding, it can be transported, serves as a fuel and can be used for mobility, heating, chemical reactions or the generation of electricity (storage). We would have an abundant fuel based on the (theoretical) abundance of water and electricity produced by renewable energy facilities. There is no peak oil and no GHG-Emissions – only pure water and energy. This can be a game changer – assuming we get the technologies right. But let’s assume this will be the case.


And how will the game be changed? This is precisely what we are going to explore in our Scenario-Exercise. The key question is: How could a world (Europe) look like with abundant energy in the form of hydrogen? What are the central factors shaping the future, given that we have abundant (green) hydrogen?


We will have to look at global developments and the situation in the global south. For example, in Northern Africa, there is enormous potential for renewable energy – only that fresh water might be a problem. However, what if technology allows for electrolysers that can cope with seawater? And what happens to countries only with limited access to freshwater or seawater? Would that create new imbalances and potentially new lines of conflict? What about the interest of the nations in the global south? The term “new colonisation” has already been born. In addition, what happens to global power relations? What influence will the current conflict with Russia have in the future, and what are the new constellations after this war?

Building renewable energy facilities requires a lot of – partly critical – raw materials. Will Europe be in the position to have access to all required raw materials? Will the oil-producing countries just wait and see? Will they transform and also become hydrogen or electricity producer? Maybe Arabian countries enter the road to synthetic fuels and can just use existing infrastructure. How will large multinational companies position themselves?

A closer look into Europe might cover topics like, how self-sufficient/autonomous Europe can be. Will the population accept all the renewable energy facilities? Do national and European legislation and administration allow such a fast transition? Can such a transition be just for all? Which impact will the transition towards a circular economy have on energy demand and the structure of industrial production? Which role can digitalisation play – concerning smart grids in connection with cybercrime, resilience and terms of preparedness?


Most of these questions relate to so-called influencing factors that will help us to ask the right questions for the future. These factors help us define and explore scenarios of a Hydrogen Economy in Europe. We will systematise the process of the identification and selection of key factors and build projections into the future of each of these key factors. Consistent and plausible combinations of the projections will build the skeleton for our scenarios. These will be enriched, assessed and evaluated.


The overarching guiding question for our assessments will be, in the end, what can and must Research and Innovation Policy do to support the transition best?

We will regularly update news about the scenario process on this platform.

The scenario workshops will take place online:

  • 8. September, 13:00 – 16:00 CEST: Selection of the key factors

  • 14. September 9:00 – 12:00 CEST: Building of the projections

  • 26. September 13:00 – 16:00 CEST: Selection of the scenarios and first enrichment


If you are interested in joining the workshop and contributing to the discussions with the expert group, please send a private message via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ullrichlorenz/overlay/contact-info/, and we will provide you with the dial-in details.

Looking forward to the exploration of the future together with you.

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