Thinking Ahead: The Way Forward for Hydrogen in Canada

Monday, December 19, 2022

Moderator: Dr. David Layzell (University of Calgary)

Speakers: Maira Kusch (World Energy Council – Germany), Elisa Obermann (Marine Renewables), Greg Caldwell (ATCO Gas), and Dr. Bruno Pollet (Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières)

The Transition Accelerator hosted another informative discussion as part of the Pathways to Net Zero webinar series. On December 19th, international experts gathered to discuss recent developments and visions for future hydrogen economies.

While hydrogen is widely seen as an essential part of our net-zero future, opinions differ regarding the markets it will serve, the technologies that should be deployed, and the scale of the infrastructure needed to produce, transport, store and use hydrogen.

The Transition Accelerator was enthusiastic to welcome four expert panelists, along with Dr. David Layzell as the moderator, to highlight how Canada can move forward on decarbonizing our economy using hydrogen, and to look at hydrogen strategies beyond our borders. The panelists’ expertise and knowledge helped shed light on the fast-moving developments that are needed to further deploy hydrogen technologies. Maira Kusch, Head of Office at World Energy Council – Germany, kicked off the panel by presenting the boom of hydrogen strategies across the world in the last two years. At least 28 countries have released hydrogen strategies since 2017, including Canada in December 2020 and most countries from the European Union between 2020 and 2022.

Timeline showing when various countries adopted formal hydrogen strategies, starting with Japan in 2017, and closing with nations that are still preparing their own strategies

International hydrogen strategies timeline published by the World Energy Council. Full report available here.

Despite the growing worldwide interest in hydrogen, Dr. Bruno Pollet, Professor of Chemistry at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, pointed out that “one should not think that hydrogen is the silver bullet to an energy crisis”.  

Dr. Pollet also detailed the advantages and expertise Canada (and especially Québec) has to be a green hydrogen production leader. Indeed, even before the release of the Canadian strategy, hydrogen had been attracting interest in Canada from academia and industry, and highly valuable expertise can be leveraged to deploy a prosperous hydrogen economy. More recently, the Canadian Prime Minister and his German counterpart signed a joint declaration of intent to establish a Canada-Germany Hydrogen Alliance. The proposed Alliance would help establish a transatlantic Canada-Germany supply corridor, with the target of beginning exports by 2025. Representants of Canada, Germany and the Maritime provinces discussed energy exports and the development of renewable energy in Atlantic Canada, as well as the region’s transition toward net-zero on this occasion. 

Marine Renewables Canada’s work has been identifying markets for marine renewables, and advocating for and facilitating market development. Executive director Elisa Obermann explained that “in the past, much of our focus was on development of marine renewables to meet future clean electricity needs but […] in the last couple of years green hydrogen has become a major focus for us.” 

Recent announcements from the Nova Scotia government to offer 5 GW of offshore wind leases by 2030 and to release a green hydrogen action plan in 2023 are paving the way for the development of offshore wind farms for hydrogen production. Out of the 140 members of Marine Renewables Canada, several are already involved in hydrogen production locally and internationally. On the other side of the country, in places like Alberta that heavily rely on natural gas for energy supply, blending hydrogen has raised interest. For example, since October 2022, ATCO has been delivering a blend of natural gas containing five per cent hydrogen by volume into a subsection of the Fort Saskatchewan natural gas distribution system. 

The Fort Saskatchewan Hydrogen Blending Project is intended to be stepping-stone into the Canadian hydrogen market by demonstrating ATCO’s abilities in the sector as they work through regulatory, commercial, technical, and public engagement requirements. “Hydrogen for heating — it depends on where you are and it is not something everyone agrees on,” admitted Greg Caldwell, Director of Utility Hydrogen Strategy at ATCO Gas. He then described “the four C’s” (capacity, cost, carbon, coincidence) and pointed out hydrogen’s potential for heating considering how energy is currently consumed in Alberta. 

A variety of topics around so-called green and blue hydrogen were tackled by the panelists. To know more about their vision of the future of the Canadian hydrogen economy and how Canada compares internationally, be sure to watch the full presentation on the top of this post, or on the Transition Accelerator YouTube channel.

Highlights from the panelists’ closing remarks

We’re grateful to all our panelists and our moderator for sharing their expertise and insights into the hydrogen economy and technologies. Hydrogen will undoubtedly play an important role in decarbonizing Canada and the world. We are yet to see how countries and regions play their cards!

This panel was part of the Transition Accelerator’s Pathways to Net Zero webinar series. The Transition Accelerator is a charity dedicated to empowering and guiding decision-makers towards with the tools and knowledge they need to unlock a sustainable future for Canada.

To learn about upcoming webinars or review our previous events, be sure to visit our webinar page. We’ll see you on January 31, 2023 to discuss “The Road to Net Zero: The case for electrifying Canada”

We welcome suggestions for discussions you would like the Transition Accelerator to host. Email us your ideas!

About Our Panel

Moderator

Dr. David Layzell
David Layzell is a professor and director of the Canadian Energy Systems Analysis Research (CESAR) initiative at the University of Calgary. He began his academic career as a professor of biology (cross-appointments in the Schools of Environmental Studies and Public Policy) at Queen’s University, generated an international reputation and was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC). Over the past 20+ years his interdisciplinary research efforts have focused on exploring and defining transition pathways capable of moving Canada to a more sustainable future. His work has led directly to the activities of The Transition Accelerator.

Speakers

Maira Kusch
Maira Kusch is Head of Office at World Energy Council – Germany (Weltenergierat –Deutschland e.V.). Before joining the WEC network, Maira worked as Senior Consultant for energy, environment and mobility at the EPA European Berlin Brüssel Political Affairs GmbH, a strategic consultancy based in Berlin, and as Policy Advisor for Matthias Groote, MEP in the Committee on the Environment of the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg. She holds a Master’s degree in International Studies / Peace and Conflict Research and a Bachelor’s degree in European Studies. Maira is co-author of the book “Flüssiggas und BioLPG in der Energiewende” (“The Role of Liquefied Petroleum Gas and BioLPG in the Energy Transition”), published in 2020.

Elisa Obermann
Elisa joined Marine Renewables Canada in 2012 and has been the executive director since 2015. In this role she works to facilitate technology innovation in the sector by advocating for supportive policies, identifying international business development opportunities, and enhancing the capacity of the local supply chain. Elisa has also designed and led numerous engagement and outreach activities to grow knowledge and support for marine renewable energy development. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Masters in Public Administration from Dalhousie University.

Greg Caldwell
Greg Caldwell is director of Utility Hydrogen Strategy at ATCO Gas. He is a registered professional engineer, educated at the University of Alberta, specializing in Petroleum Engineering. He also holds a CPA designation. Caldwell’s professional experience consists of engineering, accounting, and regulatory work in the Energy Industry. His focus since 2012 has been in the areas of Business Technology, Utility Regulation, and Innovation.

Currently participating on national and international committees with the Canadian Gas Association, he also serves as the Canadian Chair of the International Gas Union’s (IGU) Research, Development and Innovation Committee, as well as on the Energy Transition Advisory Committee, which advises the City of Edmonton on methods to implement their community energy strategy.

Dr. Bruno Pollet
Bruno is Professor of Chemistry at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR), Deputy Director of the UQTR Institute for Hydrogen Research (IHR), Adjunct Professor of Renewable Energy at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). He is President of the Green Hydrogen Division of the International Association for Hydrogen Energy (IAHE). He is a member of the Council of Engineers for the Energy Transition (CEET): An Independent Advisory Council to the United Nations’ Secretary-General. He is President of the Green Hydrogen Division of the International Association for Hydrogen Energy. He was awarded two prestigious NSERC Tier 1 Canada Research Chair on Green Hydrogen Production, and the Innergex Renewable Energy Research Chair focussing on the next generation of hydrogen production and water electrolysers.

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