China is formulating a hydrogen plan but its timing is uncertain

Source: iStock

China is drafting a plan to develop its hydrogen industry as it seeks to cut emissions.

The strategy is being developed by the government’s top economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, according to people familiar with the matter.

The plan will focus on the cleanest form of the gas, or green hydrogen, which is produced from water using renewable energy, and will encourage the construction of more hydrogen stations to power vehicles, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter isn’t public. The release of the plan is still pending final decisions on targets and technology standards, the person said.

The government typically drafts programs for specific industries to complement the goals laid out in its overarching five-year plans, the last of which – China’s 14th – was unveiled in March. The 13th plan included separate blueprints for energy sub-sectors from solar to geothermal and coal-bed methane, which were all published by the end of 2016, the first year of the period, or early 2017.

The NDRC didn’t respond to a fax requesting comment.

Hydrogen focus

Attention on hydrogen in China has surged in recent months after a slew of announcements by companies promising investment in the emerging technology. The firms entering the race to develop the fuel include clean energy giants, oil refiners and even steel-makers.

The NDRC’s plan will help establish the scale of China’s ambitions for the fuel amid some of the firmer targets already set out by other nations. The European Union has said its investment in hydrogen could hit 470 billion euros ($565 billion) by 2030.

In the meantime, the global imperative to cut emissions has received a huge boost from U.S. President Joe Biden’s commitment to climate action, culminating in this week’s summit attended by the world’s top leaders including China’s President Xi Jinping.

China is by far the biggest contributor of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and has faced pressure from other nations to accelerate its path to peak emissions and set out in more detail how it intends to reach net-zero.

The China Hydrogen Alliance said this week that the fuel could account for 20 per cent of the nation’s energy mix by 2060, the deadline that Xi has set for China to become a carbon-neutral country.

The NDRC’s plan is also likely to draw on other governmental efforts, including as yet unpublished proposals from the National Energy Administration on energy technology, which will be heavily focused on hydrogen.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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