Chung urges G20 nations to join ‘hydrogen economy’


By Nam Hyun-woo

Hyundai Motor Group Executive Vice Chairman Eui-sun urged CEOs and energy ministers of G20 countries to start a global initiative to use hydrogen as a key energy source, the group said Sunday.

According to the automaker, Chung stressed “immediate actions” are required for the planet’s sustainability and a “hydrogen-powered society is the most viable solution” to achieve this energy transition. He made the comments during a speech at the meeting of energy ministers of G20 countries in Karuizawa, Japan, Saturday.

Energy and environmental ministers and several global companies, including Hyundai Motor, Toyota and Air Liquide, attended the G20 Ministerial Meeting on Energy Transitions and Global Environment for Sustainable Growth. Korea’s Minister of Environment Cho Myung-rae also participated.

Chung made the speech as a co-chairman of the Hydrogen Council, a global CEO initiative aimed at fostering hydrogen as transition energy source.

He stressed that the move to hydrogen power was not a matter for a single industry, but for all involved, including businesses, investors and governments.

“Ensuring a sustainable earth requires immediate actions, not just fine words and study results,” Chung said. “We believe that a hydrogen-powered society is the most viable solution to achieve a successful energy transition and this is why we urge leaders from all sectors, beyond energy and transport, to join us in demonstrating a hydrogen reality to the world and achieving a better future.”

Chung cited a recent International Energy Agency (IEA) report that stated “hydrogen can help tackle various critical energy challenges” and “now is the time to scale up technologies and bring down costs to allow hydrogen to become widely used.”

The report, published on June 14, is the IEA’s first on hydrogen and provides recommendations to governments and industry, such as making industrial ports the nerve centers for scaling up the use of hydrogen, building on existing infrastructure, including natural gas pipelines, and launching the hydrogen trade’s first international shipping routes.

“The report clearly demonstrates that hydrogen technologies can play an important role in the energy transition,” Chung said. “We hope the close collaboration between the IEA and the Hydrogen Council will ultimately lead to clear recognition of the benefits from hydrogen technologies.”

The Hydrogen Council expects the gas will account for about 20 percent of world energy demand by 2050. This will cut global carbon emissions by 6 gigatonnes, accounting for a big portion of worldwide efforts to limit global warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Along with environmental benefits, industries related to hydrogen are expected to create $2.5 trillion of market value a year and jobs for more than 30 million people, the council says. However, hurdles remain, such as the high cost of producing hydrogen and the immense expense of infrastructure for hydrogen power.

The IEA expects the cost of hydrogen production from renewable electricity could drop 30 percent by 2030 as a result of the falling cost of renewables and the scaling up of hydrogen production. But it said “producing hydrogen from low-carbon energy is costly at the moment.”

“We need all key stakeholders around the table ― business, investors and governments ― to discuss how to create the right environment and make the right tools to drive this change,” Chung said.

During a meeting with global investment banks a day earlier, Chung urged investors to join the initiative and make aggressive investments on establishing early stage infrastructure for hydrogen facilities.

“The next generation of citizens, the next generation of customers will strongly demand clean air, secure energy, sustainable economies and a responsible approach to our shared resources,” Chung said. “We must respond to these demands.”