Green hydrogen in Austria

Rosita writes*

In 2018, 29% of Austria’s total primary energy supply was covered by renewables, with the largest share coming from bioenergy and hydropower (IEA, 2020). Renewables also cover 77% of the electricity generation in the country, in comparison to the transport sector, which has only one-tenth of its supply delivered by green sources (IEA, 2020). To achieve its 2040 carbon neutrality target, Austria would need to accelerate its decarbonization efforts across all energy sectors, with transport remaining a big challenge, due to the large scale infrastructural requirements and present technological lock-in (IEA, 2020; Klitkou, 2015). Green hydrogen has entered the Austrian market as a climate-neutral energy carrier, whose scaled-up production may play a crucial role in the decarbonization of hard-to-abate sectors such as transportation and the transition to a more secure energy supply (EIA).

In 2019, Austria’s transportation sector emitted 22 million tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases, or 30% of the nation’s total (Climate Action in Austria, n.d.; Austria: Annual, 2021). Nevertheless, the country’s fossil fuel consumption has been going through a gradual decline since 1976, which reflected the Austrian government’s plans to facilitate the use of massive-scale renewable energy sources in the country, using hydro-energy within the electricity sector (Stocker, 2011). The transport sector has been lagging behind in introducing renewable energy sources on a massive scale, one of the reasons being the nature of the sector, which makes direct electrification difficult to implement (IRENA, 2021). Green hydrogen can provide a solution to this problem, as it can facilitate the existing natural gas infrastructure to transport and store wind and solar power that has been converted into hydrogen via electrolysis (EIA, 2020).

Green hydrogen is mainly produced from the electrolysis of water (IRENA, 2021). Unlike the more widely used grey hydrogen, which is primarily produced from fossil raw materials, green hydrogen is derived from renewable energy sources (EIA, 2020). Small scale initiatives that use hydrogen as the main energy source have already been running in Austria, giving an example of how the country has the capacity to facilitate larger-scale projects using green hydrogen (EIA, 2020). UpHy I&II is the best example that has taken place in recent years (EIA, 2020). It presents a cooperative project between Austria’s leading energy companies, OMV and VERBUND, and it aims at providing clean fuel for the Vienna region’s public bus system (EIA, 2020). Having more large-scale projects like UpHy I&II can provide the necessary infrastructure in the country to upscale hydrogen production.

Bottom line: Hydrogen, if provided on a large scale, can replace fossil fuels and thereby reduce CO2 emissions. Hydrogen has advantages over conventional fuels for heavier vehicles (in terms of fueling time). With the right infrastructure and economies of scale, hydrogen can increase Austria’s use of clean energy (Beltman, 2020).

* Please help my Environmental Economics students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice :).

Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

2 thoughts on “Green hydrogen in Austria”

  1. Hey Rosi,

    Really interesting post! I think in many countries that are heavily dependent on road transport/vehicles, green hydrogen sounds like an innovation we need to extend the energy transition in this crucial sector. Your post was really comprehensive and well referenced, although I would describe how green hydrogen works and its benefits right after you introduce it the beginning.

    Maybe you will cover this in your actual report, but I’m interested if green hydrogen is feasible to implement when its run entirely on renewables? I’ve always been skeptical of things like plant-based or algae biofuels because their space requirement is super high if they are to be commercially viable (and in the case of plant-based, using up arable land). These technologies are promised to be the ‘green’ solution but have hidden environmental/land costs. I wonder what the case could be for green hydrogen in terms of land requirements for their renewable energy input?
    Overall, super cool topic!

  2. Hi Rosita,

    I thought this was a very interesting blog post, I personally have never heard of green hydrogen so it was great to learn something new.
    In the blog post you mention adapting the infrastructure to facilitate the green hydrogen. What specially would have to be done, and how long would it take for a city to adapt from using fossil fuels to green hydrogen. I am also a little curious about the whole process of green hydrogen, how is it made, how long does it take to “create”, also like is it storable. How would switching over to green hydrogen affect the day to day life of the citizens.
    In general I think this is a really interesting and relevant topic. I can’t wait to read more about it in your report!

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