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Hydrogen will play a key role in all future energy strategies. But how can it be produced and used sustainably?

A follow-up report on the Helmholtz Sustainability Talk

On 19 April 2021, Helmholtz researchers, policymakers, business people and representatives of NGOs met for the Helmholtz Sustainability Talk. They discussed how to develop and set up a hydrogen economy in a sustainable and resource-efficient way. The talk was moderated by Hamburg-based climate expert Frank Böttcher.

Peter Tschentscher, Mayor of Hamburg, firmly believes that we need to engage people in hydrogen and sustainable energy management. The decarbonisation of the transport sector and industry is such a big undertaking that all promising developments and strategies should be considered. This includes green hydrogen, battery research and other technologies to make the economy more sustainable.

Many developments in the field of energy research are simply unthinkable without basic research, as Professor Simone Techert pointed out. Through research on X-ray light sources at DESY, for instance, her working group has developed mini powerplants thinner than a strand of hair. These cells mimic nature and produce hydrogen from sunlight and water.

Executive Director at Greenpeace Germany Martin Kaiser called for the expansion of wind and solar energy, as green hydrogen can only be produced with green electricity. He warned against using fossil fuels to produce hydrogen. In 2021, it is vital to put in place conditions that ensure that we do not exceed the climate target of 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming agreed in Paris.

Economic expert Claudia Kemfert spoke about the key role of hydrogen in strategies to secure our energy future at European and international levels. However, she warned that not all countries are working towards a sustainable energy economy and remarked that the climate goals cannot be achieved with strategies to produce hydrogen using fossil energy or nuclear power.

Helmholtz scientist Professor Katja Bühler is researching the biotechnological production of hydrogen using photosynthetically active microbes. As an advisor to the National Hydrogen Council in Germany, she warned against treating hydrogen as a panacea. Instead, hydrogen is a piece of the puzzle in the overall strategy towards a sustainable energy economy.

(Photo: DESY/A. Heimken)

You can watch the full discussion (in German) here:

Energieträger Wasserstoff. Gibt es einen besten Weg?