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Interview with Dr Venera N. Anderson on the growing importance of hydrogen

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By Venera N. Anderson

· 8 min read


World Hydrogen Forum: Being named #1 “Most-Read Thought Leader of the Year in Energy" on illuminem is a significant achievement.  In addition to this recognition, what other notable accomplishments have you achieved in your work on the energy transition, particularly regarding your focus on the role of hydrogen?

Dr Anderson: A “just energy transition” is one of the main topics I currently focus on in my proprietary sustainability research and advisory efforts. Energy transitions focus on people: the decision-makers and those affected by those decisions. A “just energy transition” approach safeguards that all affected people are considered by those making decisions. Hydrogen, primarily green hydrogen, is one of the crucial pieces of the global decarbonization puzzle and, thus, of a "just energy transition."

I am very honoured and grateful to Illuminem for recognizing my efforts! Illuminem.com is the world’s largest sustainability expert network and a global source of corporate information on sustainability, with 200,000+ readers across 110+ countries.

Last year, iluminem chose me as the #6 “Hydrogen" and #9 "Energy Transition (2022) Most-Read Thought Leader of the Year. This year, illuminem selected me as the #1 "Energy" Most-Read Thought Leader of the Year (2023).

Here are my articles focusing on the role of hydrogen globally and in selected countries (in the order from the most recent):

  1. “Begin at the Beginning: Nexus-Integrated Policies for Clean Hydrogen Production and Integration into High-Priority Heavy Industry Sectors in Japan” (policy series);
  2. “Policies to Improve Energy and Environmental Security, Resilience, and Reliability: A Case Study on Japan” (policy series introducing my concept of “nexus-integrated policies” for Japan);
  3. “Excerpts from ‘Touching Hydrogen Future,’ Kazakhstan 2049;”
  4. “Clean Hydrogen’s Promethean Moment: U.S. Recent Climate Policy Wins and Their Impacts on Climate Change;”
  5. “Hydrogen Deployment in the Road Transportation Sector: U.S. Decarbonization Strategy” (policy series);
  6. “Decarbonizing Global Energy Systems: Technological Opportunities and Challenges;”
  7. “Geography Matters: Coastal Green Hydrogen Hub as a Key to Building a Hydrogen Economy” (policy series introducing my concept of “quasi-revolutionary transition,” a transition governance model toward the hydrogen economy)

Being a part of the illuminem community has helped me play a role in accelerating the energy transition since I can share my knowledge instantaneously with hundreds of thousands of global sustainability professionals in various sectors, especially energy. I can also broadcast my illuminem-published research on energy transition and hydrogen by speaking at conferences such as "The Wall Street Green Summit" and “Tech Up for Women;” podcasts: “The Sustainable Finance Podcast” and “The Sustainability Journey,” webinar by “World Hydrogen Leaders,” dedicated to the “Touching Hydrogen Future” (2nd) global book launch, and at Rotary International Club of Alexandria (USA).

Besides, I was thrilled to share my chapter “Kazakhstan, 2049: Hydrogen Silk Roads and Hubs” from the book “Touching Hydrogen Future” (2nd ed, 2023) on illuminem. The book is featured on Amazon in 12 countries (USA, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Canada, Australia, and Japan) and can be downloaded for free at https://europeangasmarket.eu/

In 2024, I look forward to speaking at “Japan’s Energy Summit and Exhibition” (June 2024) to introduce my new concept of “nexus-integrated policies” for Japan, especially with its application in the clean hydrogen production and integration into the country’s high-priority heavy industry sectors.

Lastly, I am thrilled to share with the MENA hydrogen community that my illuminem- published policy series “Geography Matters: Coastal Green Hydrogen Hub as a Key to Building a Hydrogen Economy” has just been translated into Arabic and published by the Egyptian Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) in the “Climate Prospects Journal” (5th ed, November 2023) that can be found on this link: https://idsc.gov.eg/Article/details/9092.

WHF: "Women in Green Hydrogen" emphasises visibility for female experts. What are women's unique contributions and challenges when driving innovation in the hydrogen sector?

Dr Anderson: The significance of women networks, like “Women in Green Hydrogen” cannot be underestimated during the ongoing energy transition. For example, “Women in Green Hydrogen,” where I am one of the international experts, is a global network of women working in the green hydrogen sector. The network provides a "platform to connect, empower, and change."  "Women in Green Hydrogen" aims to build a robust community to connect women in green hydrogen and encourage knowledge exchange. I especially would like to praise the "Women in Green Hydrogen" Mentoring Program, now in its third edition, with a record number of 180 mentees and mentors.

The passionate co-founders of the "Women in Green Hydrogen" noticed that men dominate most conferences, media appearances, advisory committees, and management boards. They wanted to change this dynamic by creating an international expert database that lists inspiring and competent women working in the green hydrogen sector. It presents a valuable tool for event organisers seeking to display women’s talent and expertise. In so doing, “Women in Green Hydrogen” is transforming the world of green hydrogen by making it more inclusive and innovative.

WHF: What are the most valuable applications for hydrogen in heavy industry in achieving our net-zero goals?

Dr Anderson: 2024 might be a breakout year for hydrogen due to the last year’s challenges. For many, 2023 was supposed to be the year when clean, especially green hydrogen, went from a lofty idea to reality, with a wave of government subsidies ready to enter full force to guarantee profitability for green hydrogen projects. But most significant global subsidy programs have been taking longer to come into full force than expected, delaying final investment decisions by developers with knock-on effects for investors and electrolyzer makers.

Industry players and governments are becoming more realistic about the cost of producing green hydrogen and the sectors that should be subsidised to use it. Some governments worldwide have also started to rethink how clean and green hydrogen should be utilised. They have largely concluded that it should be reserved for sectors where electrification is impossible or difficult to achieve at scale.

Like other industry experts, I welcome this development, since with fewer distractions to generate demand growth, such as home heating, clean hydrogen developers may be able to speed up the development of scalable solutions for heavy industry and, therefore, make a crucial contribution to global emissions reduction efforts. To that end, I recommend reading my new illuminem policy series “Begin at the Beginning: Nexus-Integrated Policies for Clean Hydrogen Production and Integration into High-Priority Heavy Industry Sectors in Japan," where I evaluate Japan's hydrogen strategy and propose an innovative strategy based on my "nexus-integrated policies" framework, to produce and integrate clean hydrogen into Japan’s high-priority heavy industry applications, such as chemicals, refining, and steel. In conclusion, 2024 will be a crucial year for the hydrogen sector to witness if the hope for a smaller, more focused global hydrogen economy comes true.

WHF: In what ways do events like the World Hydrogen Forum showcase cutting-edge technologies and innovations in the hydrogen industry, and how does this exposure drive further advancement?

Dr Anderson: Hydrogen presents a significant opportunity for modern energy systems. These systems are amid a decarbonization transition due to public concerns about greenhouse gas emissions, rapid technical innovation, the availability of specific energy resources, and the growing population from developing nations emerging from energy poverty. While clean hydrogen is not a panacea for this transition, it uniquely complements and enables other decarbonization pathways, such as direct electrification, energy efficiency measures, and biomass-based fuels.

The enthusiasm surrounding hydrogen is not new. For instance, in the 1970s, hydrogen interest was due to oil price shocks, gasoline shortages, acid rain, and air pollution. The subsequent moderation in oil prices, public resistance against nuclear power, and air-pollution control measures lessened hydrogen excitement. In the 1980s, the rise in concern about climate change increased hydrogen interest, especially with a focus on carbon and capture technology, transportation, and renewable energy. However, global oil prices remained low, lessening the support for hydrogen usage. In the early 2000s, climate change concerns led to renewed policy action, concentrating on peak oil matters and the transportation sector. By the 2010s, the hydrogen momentum decreased due to the retreat of peak oil concerns, uncertainty about climate policy developments, and the rapid progress with battery-electric vehicles. None of the waves of interest resulted in sustainable investment in the technology. The lack of success in the previous hydrogen scale-up was due to the dependence on high/rising oil and gas prices and the singular focus on transportation.

Although hydrogen has not lived up to the hype for decades, and there are still substantial challenges in scaling clean hydrogen solutions globally, there is confidence now that hydrogen’s time as a clean energy solution has finally come.

There are four reasons why hydrogen is hope in the current energy transition. First, hydrogen can reduce deep emissions in hard-to-abate sectors, such as chemicals, refining, and steel. Second, hydrogen can ensure the continuation of renewable electricity's growth. Third, technical innovations in other cleaner energy solutions can also benefit hydrogen innovation. Lastly, hydrogen can contribute to many sustainability policy objectives, such as economic development, energy access, local air pollution, and energy security.

Conferences like the World Hydrogen Forum provide a vital meeting point for all critical stakeholders in the hydrogen sector: senior decision makers, solution providers, and innovators to learn, network, and shape the global future of clean hydrogen as a powerful solution for energy transition. The Inaugural Edition of the World Hydrogen Forum at Dhahran Expo in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will maintain the MENA momentum following COP28 and accelerate the global energy transition while promoting sustainability across the entire hydrogen value chain.

This article is also published on the World Hydrogen Forum. illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Dr. Venera N. Anderson is a global strategy advisor and published author on sustainability and climate issues. She creates and implements innovative solutions that address the world’s most pressing issues, such as climate change, economic development, and humanitarian challenges. She is a member of the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council. Venera is a co-author of the "Touching Hydrogen Future" book (2nd edition). She is also an International Expert at Women in Green Hydrogen, a global network which strives to increase the visibility and amplify the voices of women working in the green hydrogen sector, and a Speaker at Tech Up for Women and the Wall Street Green Summit about her vision for coastal U.S. green hydrogen hubs.

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