Hydrogen is one of the main commitments of energy policy in Europe. It is evident in a review of recent decisions, such as the construction of an underwater tube that will link Spain and France and will transport two million tons a year. There are many other indications, such as a study by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) published this Tuesday that analyzes patent applications related to this technology. It indicates that 28% come from European Union countries, compared to 24% from Japan and 20% from the United States.
The study analyzes the patents registered between 2010 and 2020, so it does not include the effect of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the energy crisis that it has unleashed. “It is still too early to know if the invasion of Ukraine is leading to more investigation [en tecnologías de hidrógeno], but we do have the perception that it may be happening”, explains Luis Berenguer, spokesman for the OEP. In 2020 there were 500 patents on hydrogen, about 200 more than a decade earlier.
Europe aspires to be neutral in emissions by 2050 and therefore encourages blue hydrogen (which emits greenhouse gases that are captured and stored) and, above all, green, which is obtained through electrolysis, a process that applies an electric current to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The study indicates Spain’s leadership in this area: environmentally friendly hydrogen technologies accounted for 76% of hydrogen-derived patents in Spain between 2010 and 2020, above other European countries (64% in Germany, 55 % in France, 59% in the Netherlands). This is due to the fact that Spain promotes this technology mainly for its use in renewable energies, not in the automotive industry, the main vector in other territories.
The analysis of the OEP and the IEA indicates that patents in green hydrogen technologies in Spain have increased by 5% per year during the period analyzed, a higher annual growth rate than in Germany (4.2%), the Netherlands (4.2%), .4%) and Italy (2.6%), and only surpassed by that of France (5.7%). In addition, Spanish patents for green hydrogen production have exceeded patents for hydrogen production from fossil fuels for more than a decade.
The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, vindicated this Monday the Spanish strength in this matter: he boasted that Spain has become a leading country in renewable energies and assured that 20% of the world’s green hydrogen projects are in this country .
“The data on green hydrogen research in Spain are certainly positive,” emphasizes Berenguer, who stresses the Spanish performance in this section: “It is the ninth European country that registers the most patents on hydrogen, but in the general classification it is usually in worse positions. This makes it clear that it is a firm commitment, that there is a lot of interest in Europe and especially in Spain”.
In the press release in which it presents the report, the EPO highlights that, among the final applications of hydrogen, it continues to grow worldwide in the automotive industry (with Japan at the fore), but is not advancing in other key sectors: “A Despite efforts in recent years to decarbonise other sectors, such as long-haul transportation, aviation, power generation, and domestic heating systems, the momentum in other end-use applications is yet to be seen. This generates concern about the commitments on zero emissions acquired by the different countries, which cannot be achieved if the use of fossil fuels in these sectors is not reduced”.
“This study demonstrates that innovators are responding to the need for competitive hydrogen supply chains, but also identifies areas, particularly among end users, where further efforts are required. We will continue to help governments stimulate innovation in clean, safe, resilient and sustainable energy technologies”, says the executive director of the IEA, Fatih Birol, in the press release, which also includes statements by the president of the EPO, António Campinos: “Taking advantage of the potential of hydrogen is one of the keys to the European strategy to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. This report reveals certain encouraging transition patterns between countries and industrial sectors, as well as the important European contribution in the appearance of new hydrogen technologies.
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