Hydrogen: Small molecule, big effect! Energy & climate solution of the future? MCI Livetalk with Katherina Reiche on future strategies for the energy transition.
Katherina Reiche has the clear goal of rapidly advancing the energy transition. As a member of the Sustainability Council and Chairwoman of the National Hydrogen Council of the Federal Republic of Germany, she has made a significant contribution to energy policy since the beginning of her parliamentary activities in 1998. As graduate chemist from Potsdam and CEO of Westenergie AG since 2020 she is involved in renewable energies and has so far supported numerous international climate protection negotiations with her expertise. In order to achieve a long-term energy transition, she advocates the use of hydrogen.
According to Reiche, it is important to "act quickly and consistently" when it comes to restructuring the power supply - after all, it is about future-proof jobs, new value creation potentials, and the global market worth billions. Oil and natural gas are still the dominant energy sources, accounting for two-thirds of primary energy consumption in Austria and as much as 80% in Germany. Of the many interesting initiatives of the transformation, Katherina Reiche highlights above all "Tyrol 2050", where concepts with new heating infrastructures and hydrogen pipelines for future supply have already been defined.
However, not all alternative energy sources are necessarily suitable for the required New Industrial Revolution. Batteries and e-mobility will play a subordinate role in air and sea transport as well as in long land transport routes. Moreover, balancing out the high fluctuations in energy consumption with electricity alone is simply not feasible. CO2 reduction in the steel, glass and cement industries can also only show sensible and long term effects with the key element of hydrogen decarbonization.
For Reiche, hydrogen is indispensable as an energy carrier of the future: "For me, hydrogen is the industrial policy answer to the Paris climate agreement." In this context, the main focus must be on energy partnerships with other countries and on maintaining the industry's value chains and restructuring them in such a way that a proper hydrogen economy can develop with incentives for climate-neutral production. Starting points for this, in any case, would be changes in energy legislation and the consideration of electricity as a competitive product.
Reiche’s benchmarks of the hydrogen strategy are above all Korea and Japan, but also countries such as France or Russia, which are already intensively dealing with concrete realizations. Of course, different research approaches are being pursued, which is important, according to Reiche, because "politics should only set the goals, but leave the way open for the many different technological answers and solutions". The one major common challenge here, she says, is the mass market and all the associated components that need to be taken into account in order to maintain certain economies of scale and the competitiveness of the individual players. The associated infrastructure, for example, using and adapting existing gas networks and constructing new hydrogen pipelines, is an essential component.
For a successful turnaround in the energy sector, Reiche believes it is important to be open to transitional solutions that use non-renewable energies for hydrogen production as well. The decisive factor, she says, must be the overall CO2 reduction that can be achieved, and to choose the processes accordingly so that the desired climate policy effect occurs.