The Energy Element
Hydrogen is back in focus as a clean energy component. We gathered our Innovation Think Tank and collected initial thoughts on the matter.
Clean hydrogen is gaining strong political and business momentum, emerging as a major component in governments’ net-zero plans as Germany’s 2050 Climate Action Plan and South Korea’s Hydrogen Economy Roadmap. The private sector including Apple and Airbus is also exploring clean hydrogen’s commercial applications. This is why we believe the hydrogen value chain deserves serious focus after several false starts over the last fifty years.
Hydrogen is light, storable, has high energy content per unit mass, and can be readily produced at industrial scale. The key challenge comes from the fact that long-distance transportation and storage are complex and costly. Clean hydrogen’s cost competitiveness is also closely linked to large-scale developments in renewable power and carbon capture — two key technologies used to produce it — creating pricing dependencies.
In an effort to better understand clean hydrogen’s opportunities and challenges, we gathered our 17-member Innovation Think Tank headed by our Head of Research, Aleksandra W. Gadzala, for a virtual roundtable to explore the breakthroughs and trends that will drive hydrogen fuel adoption.
Among the initial takeaways:
- The maritime applications of hydrogen fuel show increasing promise — perhaps even over and above its terrestrial uses. An outstanding question is whether hydrogen is a viable option for aviation, where notable challenges remain (Lukas Schleuniger, Co-Founder Red or Blue Labs).
- Hydrogen rigs may eventually replace oil rigs. Rather than “an oil rig in the North Sea,” for instance, “[the Danes] have plans for a hydrogen platform where off-shore wind is used to produce energy and convert it into hydrogen.” (Lars Jaeger, Head of Quantitative Research, GAM).
- While NASA continues to invest “steadily” in hydrogen fuel cells, the U.S. administration is presently devoting more significant efforts to exploring nuclear fusion for the moon and Mars (Collin Lee, Director of Strategy — Space and Intelligence Systems, General Dynamics). The U.S. private rather than public sector is then likely to lead in clean hydrogen innovation.
- Hydrogen may drive innovation also in advanced materials. “Hydrogen is the only energy molecule able to activate carbon dioxide. If hydrogen would be available at an appropriate cost level, we can produce chemicals and compounds based on carbon dioxide by activating it via hydrogen — and this is already done with brown or blue hydrogen” (Juergen Eck, Co-founder BRAIN AG). Such a development could have far-reaching implications for everything ranging from infrastructure to food.
Following from our roundtable, we have established a dedicated Alternative Energy Task Force to more comprehensively explore the hydrogen energy sector in comparative perspective, taking into account also other alternative energy solutions. More in-depth research will be forthcoming.
About the Singularity Group’s Expert Advisory Board
One of TSG’s most valuable assets is the Expert Advisory Board. Each member is a thought-leader in his or her field: members are industry executives, seasoned entrepreneurs, and academics. Together our experts help us find and define where and how the exponential technologies for which we screen have measurable impact. Collaboration occurs via regular exchanges, technology-specific Working Groups, and multidisciplinary Task Forces through which experts deliver concrete research or serve as sounding boards — providing guidance as feedback as projects progress. These inputs feed directly into our investment process, and ultimately into The Singularity Fund.