China has increased its investment in hydrogen, a renewable and potentially clean energy source. The country's central and local governments have included the hydrogen industry in the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) as one of China's six industries of the future.
The China Hydrogen Alliance, a government-backed industry group, predicts that by 2025 the output value of the country's hydrogen energy industry will reach 1 trillion yuan ($152.6 billion), and that by 2030 China's hydrogen demand will reach 35 million tons, accounting for at least 5% of the country's energy system.
Increased use of hydrogen - a gaseous element in great abundance - could contribute to the government's goals of drastically reducing China's carbon dioxide emissions, one of the main greenhouse gases driving climate change. Hydrogen fuel cells use chemical reactions to generate emission-free electricity that can be used in transportation and other applications. Expanding hydrogen production and developing refueling infrastructure can help increase the number of new energy vehicles on the road and help China reach peak carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.
But to achieve these goals, technological hurdles need to be overcome to reduce the costs of extracting, storing, transporting and delivering the material to end users. China's advantages lie in strong government support and a huge market.
More than 30 countries have developed hydrogen roadmaps and 228 large-scale hydrogen projects have been announced across the value chain, according to a report released in February by the Hydrogen Council, a global initiative of leading companies led by their CEOs. The Council forecasts that hydrogen could meet 18% of total global energy demand and create a $2.5 trillion market with more than 30 million jobs by 2050.
Japan leads in hydrogen fuel cell technology, while the United States is at the forefront of laboratory research. Europe is more focused on hydrogen production, and China has the largest hydrogen market, said Wang Cheng, director of the hydrogen fuel cell laboratory at Tsinghua University.