Energy Transition

Here's how hydrogen power can help fuel a clean, green recovery

Moving in the right direction: A bus that runs on hydrogen power, on display in Pau, France

Moving in the right direction: A bus that runs on hydrogen power, on display in Pau, France Image: REUTERS/Regis Duvignau - RC2LFE9ZHSBO

Takeshi Uchiyamada
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Toyota Motor Corporation
Benoit Potier
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Air Liquide
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Energy Transition?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how SDG 07: Affordable and Clean Energy 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:

SDG 07: Affordable and Clean Energy

  • Hydrogen can provide zero-emissions transport and energy.
  • The EU is investing up to €180 billion by 2050 to roll out hydrogen power.
  • There needs to be a global market for hydrogen to meet climate goals.

The coronavirus pandemic has sent shockwaves through societies and economies. It has also given us a glimpse into what a better future might look like – with lower CO2 emissions, improved air quality and more appreciation for the environment around us.

This crisis has been described as a "great reset", a catalyst for change, an opportunity to “build back better”. So, while political and business leaders are now deciding how to reboot economies, investing trillions into essential sectors such as energy and transport, there is a clear case to use this pivotal moment to build a more resilient future.

The hydrogen power

On the cusp of a global energy transformation that would drastically reduce emissions and clean up our most polluting industries, we need long-term thinking and massive investments in game-changing, systemic solutions – and this is where hydrogen power comes in. Hydrogen technologies can make our economies cleaner, more secure and more resilient – providing zero-emission energy and transport solutions, enabling deep industrial decarbonisation, helping renewables maximize their potential through storage, and complementing other technologies that will be essential to reach global climate targets, such as batteries.

Who’s leading the global effort?

The European Union has just launched its new Hydrogen Strategy with a projected investment of up to €180 billion by 2050 to scale up and roll out clean hydrogen power. South Korea has also announced it will spend 114.1 trillion won (€82 billion) on green projects – including investment in electric and hydrogen vehicles. Another example comes from Germany, which has designated €9 billion to expand its hydrogen capacity at home and abroad.

This said, global climate ambitions cannot be achieved if actions like these remain isolated. For hydrogen power to fulfil its potential as a master key to unlock vast benefits across various sectors and applications, it must be viewed as a systemic play – and this takes global effort.

So where is the rest of the world? That’s the question we asked, as part of the Hydrogen Council – a worldwide 80+-strong CEO coalition working to enable the global energy transition through hydrogen power – when we virtually brought together our members along with hydrogen industry associations from Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Europe, the USA, and Canada to assess what kinds of plans and measures governments are now putting in place.

What quickly became clear is that there is encouraging movement around the world; Europe shows the way and has truly placed hydrogen power at the heart of its recovery plan; but given the nature of hydrogen technologies, this may not be enough. For Europe to reap the benefits of its ambitious plan, it needs a global market for hydrogen. Vice versa, only if others take advantage of and follow Europe’s bold move, can we scale up hydrogen power to the level needed to achieve our shared climate targets.

Have you read?

2050 targets for hydrogen power are only an investment cycle away

In short, whether or not other geographies follow the footsteps of those leading the way in the coming months will define the success of hydrogen power and the clean energy transition for at least a generation.

A recent International Energy Agency report makes a compelling case for the need to speed up investment in clean energy technologies such as hydrogen power. It warns against a “CO2 lock in”, stating that our 2050 targets are just one investment cycle away for many industries. For hydrogen technologies, it is fundamental to reach scale in this decade with tangible projects and fast execution times to bring down costs.

The latest Hydrogen Council report shows that this is achievable far sooner than previously thought and hydrogen power could soon compete with not only other low-carbon but also conventional, alternatives. Today’s stimulus packages, which amount to trillions, are an opportunity to redirect funds from propping up systems that no longer suit our post-COVID world, into clean technologies that will have long-term environmental and economic benefits.

Predictions for the future competitiveness of hydrogen power
Predictions for the future competitiveness of hydrogen power Image: Hydrogen Council

The way ahead for hydrogen power

While opinions may differ on recovery approaches, it’s clear that dramatic changes are needed in the ways we produce, distribute, store and consume energy around the world, and right now we have a truly unique opportunity. The decisions governments, industry and investors make today will either rewind or fast-forward the clean transition, with ripple effects for the recovery and the economy. A secure and affordable clean energy future is possible if we place hydrogen at the core. Just like renewables had their breakthrough in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, this shall be the decade of hydrogen power, and we are committed to making this happen so that the legacy we create today is a more sustainable and resilient future for generations to come.

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.

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.

Accelerating an Equitable Transition: A Data-Driven Approach

Espen Mehlum

July 17, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Sign in
  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum