Ottawa, Ont. – With the release of the federal hydrogen strategy today, the government has missed an opportunity to position Canada as a global leader in pursuing renewable hydrogen. Not only does the strategy focus on promoting fossil-derived hydrogen, but the government has also committed to more huge handouts for the oil and gas sector.
Strategic deployment of renewable hydrogen technology could help Canada meet its climate commitments and set us on a pathway to zero emissions. A focus on fossil hydrogen only serves the interests of the oil and gas sector as they seek to create new markets for their products. Unlike Canada, other countries are choosing to invest primarily in renewable hydrogen, despite heavy lobbying from the oil and gas sector. If Canada does not follow suit, we risk being left out of this growing industry.
This strategy will lock Canada into a future of fossil fuel use. We’re in the middle of a climate emergency – what’s needed is strong leadership to move us away from dependence on the dirty oil, coal and gas fuels that are causing this crisis, in a way that fairly respects workers and communities in these sectors. While hydrogen is being presented as a key climate solution, that will not be the case as long as its production continues to be powered by fossil fuels rather than renewable energy.
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Background information about hydrogen:
- In November, 27 organizations released a joint letter to Minister O’Regan outlining detailed concerns about further investment in fossil hydrogen
- Fossil-derived (blue) hydrogen comes from natural gas.
- Natural gas is produced through fracking, which has many associated impacts on the land, water and communities, including methane leakage.
- The argument for the climate benefits of fossil-derived hydrogen relies on carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which is this far unproven and prohibitively expensive. Commercial-scale demonstration of this technology has not yet occurred. In addition, CCS does not address methane leakage from the production or transportation of natural gas – leaks which are consistently underreported.
- Renewable (green) hydrogen is created using electricity.
- As Canada’s grid is already 82% carbon-free, we are well-positioned to be a leader in this field.
- Renewable hydrogen has the potential to reduce emissions in hard to decarbonize sectors with few alternatives and where electrification isn’t an option, such as the production of steel and cement as well as heavy-duty transport and maritime shipping.
- New research shows that plummeting prices of renewable energy and related technology will likely push renewable hydrogen to be more cost competitive by 2023 than even unabated fossil hydrogen (hydrogen production with no CCS component).
- This strategy connects the development of a hydrogen sector to the development of small modular reactors (SMR). However, there are significant concerns with the feasibility, costs, safety and timeliness of the technology. SMRs are an expensive distraction from more viable, cost-competitive decarbonization solutions.
This post was originally published on Environmental Defence.