Sustainable Development

South Korea plans to build the first hydrogen society by 2022

A hydrogen society will be able to light LEDs with green energy that will reduce emissions

A hydrogen society will be able to light LEDs with green energy that will reduce emissions Image: Saveliy Bobov/Unsplash

Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Sustainable Development?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Energy Transition is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Energy Transition

South Korea is vying to win the race to create the first hydrogen society. It wants to build three hydrogen-powered cities by 2022 as it positions itself as a leader in green technology.

The plan will see the cities use hydrogen as the fuel for cooling, heating, electricity and transportation. Consultation on where the three cities will be located is under way.

Have you read?

The test cities will use a hydrogen-powered transportation system, including buses and personal cars. Hydrogen charging stations will be available in bus stations and parking spaces.

The pilot plan for a hydrogen society unveiled by the South Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.
The pilot plan for a hydrogen society unveiled by the South Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. Image: FuelCellsWorks

The hydrogen society strategy is part of a wider vision to power 10% of the country's cities, counties and towns with hydrogen by 2030, growing to 30% by 2040.

This includes drastic increases in the numbers of hydrogen-powered vehicles and charging points in the next three years. The government has earmarked money to subsidize these vehicles and charging infrastructure.

The Moon Jae-in administration is set to spend around $18 billion dollars on hydrogen car sales and refueling stations from 2018 to 2022 to push the hydrogen society initiative.
The Moon Jae-in administration is set to spend around $18 billion dollars on hydrogen car sales and refueling stations from 2018 to 2022 to push the hydrogen society initiative. Image: Reuters

The fuel of the future hydrogen society?

Countries including Germany, Japan and China are also looking to a future hydrogen society, with a number of Asian car manufacturers including Hyundai, Toyota and Honda sinking resources into creating a range of hydrogen-powered cars.

With fuel cell vehicles – or FCVs – generally offering greater range and faster refueling times than electric vehicles, there is great hope that they will accelerate the transition to cleaner vehicles.

But challenges remain with the technology. Although some FCVs are now on the market, for many the cost remains prohibitive and they have some way to go before they become mainstream.

And while the output from hydrogen-powered cars is certainly clean – they only produce water as a by-product – at the moment they are not necessarily as clean as they may first seem. Producing the hydrogen itself is an energy-intensive process, not necessarily powered by renewable sources.

Discover

What's the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?

The other major caveat is hydrogen’s explosive nature, which is still causing safety concerns. Earlier this year an explosion of a hydrogen storage tank at one of South Korea’s government research projects killed two people and injured others.

Storage of the gas requires a lot of infrastructure, and despite government incentives to support development, until hydrogen becomes more widespread private investors can still struggle to turn a profit.

On the road to the first hydrogen society

But none of these challenges are necessarily insurmountable. And as nations around the world look to limit global warming, hydrogen may be key in the fundamental shift required in our energy system.

Seven key roles hydrogen-powered society can play in the clean energy transition, according to McKinsey.
Seven key roles hydrogen-powered society can play in the clean energy transition, according to McKinsey. Image: McKinsey & Company

Consultants McKinsey & Company envisage hydrogen transforming our energy and decarbonizing systems in seven key ways. And it is likely that FCVs will pave the way.

Globally governments are investing around $850 million annually in hydrogen, McKinsey’s 2017 report says, but much more investment is still required to reach scale and lower costs.

Loading...
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Sustainable DevelopmentEnergy Transition
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

What is needed for inclusive and sustainable global economic growth? Four leaders share their thoughts 

Liam Coleman

May 24, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum