Asia's commitment to a hydrogen future
The drive for a more sustainable future has been at the forefront of the Asia Pacific Energy Ministries for a number of years. Japan was the first country in the region to adopt a focused approach to the development of its hydrogen economy when the government released its “Basic Hydrogen Strategy” in 2017. The latest example of Japan’s commitment to hydrogen can be seen in its prominent role at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Billed as the “Hydrogen Olympics,” Tokyo 2020 has seen hydrogen being used to fuel the Olympic Cauldron during the opening ceremony.
However, the ASEAN countries along with Australia and New Zealand have been quick in developing their own formal commitments to a hydrogen economy with most now having released their own plans for a sustainable energy driven future. Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei and Singapore, amongst others, have all made documented commitments to develop a hydrogen economy in line with global decarbonisation timelines
With 18% of the country's current power generation coming from a renewable energy source, Malaysia is in prime position to leverage the growth of this sector to underpin the development of a green hydrogen economy.
In September 2021 at the 39th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting the Malaysian minister presented the country's energy transition plan that will contribute to the decarbonisation agenda of the electricity supply industry, particularly in achieving the country's renewable capacity target of 31% by 2025 and 40% by 2035.
ASEAN Policy Implications
The energy transition in Southeast Asia is still largely focused on the clean use of fossil fuels as the bridge to a clean energy future. However, based on the regional impetus for greater sustainability, green hydrogen has a bigger role to play. In particular, it is important for enabling a greater share of intermittent renewable energy such as wind and solar into the power mix and further accelerating the use of other renewable energy such as geothermal, hydropower, biomass, nuclear, wind, and solar in a hybrid energy system.
Therefore it is imperative that the ASEAN leadership focuses on promoting hydrogen development and adoption. The full participation of governments, business players, and stakeholders can make hydrogen a bridge fuel to enable the scaling up of renewable energy penetration into all sectors, thereby reducing global emissions.
ASEAN leaders can promote hydrogen adoption through the following actions:
Demonstrate a strong commitment to promoting a hydrogen society in ASEAN through energy policy. Using the ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting facilitated by the ASEAN Secretariat, a clear and actionable hydrogen development roadmap needs to be developed with a general agreement on policy incentives to promote hydrogen development and adaptation.
Develop a clear strategy for how to promote hydrogen use in the transportation, power, and other hard-to-abate sectors like the iron and steel industries. Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines could take the lead by investing in R&D for hydrogen produced from both renewables and nonrenewables and setting targets and learning from OECD countries to guide investment. Investment in industries that can adopt hydrogen energy provides strong potential, but ASEAN should accelerate plans and fine-tune strategies to embrace hydrogen use.
Develop a clear investment policy for promoting hydrogen development and adoption. The right policy, as discussed above, will enable economies of scale; improvements in electrolyser efficiency, operations, and maintenance; and the use of low-cost renewable power. Hydrogen could thus become a bridge fuel to enable the scaling up of renewable energy penetration into all sectors.
Help reduce the overall cost of managing the energy system by improving the electricity governance system among ASEAN’s developing countries. Energy remains expensive in some ASEAN countries, despite investment in low-cost and high-emission power-generation technologies, while countries in the region that have invested in more complex technologies have lower electricity tariffs than some developing countries in ASEAN. This dynamic highlights the need for transparency in the power sector and suggests that the high prices of energy and electricity tariffs are partly a governance issue that could be addressed through better management of the energy system.
Green Hydrogen Asia is focusing on potential overarching applications across a range of industries.
Transportation fuel: Hydrogen can be used as a fuel for Heavy and Medium haulage trucking, commuter busses, a any transportation medium with a back to base business model. As regional hydrogen infrastructure develops, the range of transportation options will increase exponentially.
Power generation: Through the opposite conversion used to produce electrolysis, hydrogen can be reconverted into electric power, where it can provide energy when needed. As a long-lasting and reliable source of energy, it offers a new solution to address the need to store power. It also offers a means to stabilize energy production flow and shift over time, which can plague renewable energy generation.
Energy source for heating and powering buildings: In parallel to being an energy source for industries, gas hydrogen can be used to heat buildings, including residential houses, schools, hospitals and commercial buildings.
Whilst hydrogen is used as a feedstock for industry we see this more as the domain of Blue and Grey hydrogen.