That’s according to new analysis by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which believes the rapid growth of the global hydrogen economy could bring significant geoeconomics and geopolitical shifts giving rise to a wave of new interdependencies.

All of this is outlined in a new report titled Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation: The Hydrogen Factor, that sees hydrogen changing the geography of energy trade and regionalising energy relations.

It goes without saying that hydrogen is currently one of the buzz words when it comes to renewables, with countries that have not traditionally traded energy now establishing bilateral energy relations around hydrogen and new players constantly emerging within the market.

IRENA already projects that cross-border hydrogen will grow considerably with over 30 countries and regional planning for active commerce already today. Supporting this estimate, some countries that expect to be importers are already deploying dedicated hydrogen diplomacy such as Japan and Germany.

Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA, said, “Hydrogen could prove to be a missing link to a climate-safe energy future. Hydrogen is clearly riding on the renewable energy revolution with green hydrogen emerging as a game changer for achieving climate neutrality without compromising industrial growth and social development.

“But hydrogen is not a new oil. And the transition is not a fuel replacement but a shift to a new system with political, technical, environmental, and economic disruptions. It is green hydrogen that will bring new and diverse participants to the market, diversify routes and supplies and shift power from the few to the many.

“With international co-operation, the hydrogen market could be more democratic and inclusive, offering opportunities for developed and developing countries alike.”

When it comes to importers, exporters and trade deals, however, there could be some great changes on the horizon, IRENA suggests. For example, while countries such as Chile, Morocco, and Namibia are net energy importers today, they are set to emerge as green hydrogen exporters.

Taking this into account, production potential could perhaps significant exceed estimated global demand, with countries most able to generate cheap renewable electricity being the best placed to produce competitive green hydrogen.

IRENA’s latest report also suggests that the geopolitics of clean hydrogen is likely to play out in different stages. According to the paper, the 2020s will be a big race for technology leadership, but demand is expected to only take off in the mid-2030s.

By that time, green hydrogen will cost-compete with fossil-fuel hydrogen globally, poised to happen even earlier in countries like China, Brazil and India. Refurbishing natural gas pipelines is also likely to further boost demand and facilitate hydrogen trade.


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