To HEE’s positive surprise, HEE’s co-founder and Managing Director Stephan Duch was selected by huanqiu.com, one of China’s leading online newspapers, to discuss and comment on the top-level design of hydrogen energy in China (“the middle and long-term planning of hydrogen industry development (2021-2035)”), which was released by the National Development and Reform Commission and National Energy Administration recently. Co-CEO Stephan Duch participated in this interview on behalf of HEE.
Huanqiu.com, which ranked 40th according to the Internet Magazine 2011 annual list of China top 100 commercial sites, is the preferred information sharing platform for Chinese people with a focus on global news. It is also one of the Chinese media with high citation rate of overseas media. The original article in Chinese language can be accessed via https://tech.huanqiu.com/article/47i8AOLbqDN.
For easier reading HEE provides its own unofficial English translation of the well-respected article.
The „top-level design“ of hydrogen energy is released. How will the future energy system be constructed?
[www.huanqiu.com (technology), reporter Xiangqi Zheng, Er Qing] recently, the development of hydrogen energy industry has stepped into the spotlight and attracted extensive attention. On March 23, the national development and Reform Commission and the National Energy Administration jointly issued “the middle and long-term planning of hydrogen industry development (2021-2035)” (hereinafter referred to as “planning”). As China’s first medium and long-term plan for hydrogen energy industry, planning makes top-level design and active deployment for the development of hydrogen energy industry.
Subsequently, six ministries and commissions including the Ministry of industry and information technology and the National Development and Reform Commission jointly issued the guiding opinions on promoting the high-quality development of petrochemical industry in the 14th five-year plan (hereinafter referred to as the Opinions). The Opinions proposed to accelerate the breakthrough of key technologies such as the large-scale application of green hydrogen, encourage petrochemical and chemical enterprises to develop and utilize green hydrogen reasonably and orderly according to local conditions, and promote the coupling demonstration of refining and chemical industry, coal chemical industry and industries such as green electricity and green hydrogen.
With regard to the introduction of Planning, the academics, the market and the upstream and downstream of the new energy industry have made an in-depth interpretation and analysis of planning. As for the impact of Planning, some people in the industry believe that the introduction of Planning for the hydrogen energy industry represents that China will make a comprehensive bet on all technical routes in the field of new energy. Through the dual promotion of market and policy, it will help the diversified operation of China’s energy market and ensure that hydrogen energy development will become an important part of the national energy system in the future.
In addition, there are also views that although the promulgation of Planning has promoted the hydrogen energy industry, it is necessary to treat the challenges faced by the industrial development with caution in the process of development. Taking Japan as an example, Japan paid attention to development in the field of hydrogen energy as early as more than ten years ago, and now it is leading the industry and has a large amount of technology accumulation in the research and development of related technologies and industrialization practice in the field of hydrogen energy. However, as far as the current development results are concerned, the hydrogen energy industry has not reached the level of industrialization in Japan. Japanese car companies that once invested a lot in the field of hydrogen energy vehicles are now „all in“ pure electric vehicles driven by Toyota.
Looking through the relevant discussions on the development of hydrogen energy industry, the focus of the discussion is on how to make hydrogen energy truly become an important carrier for energy-using terminals to realize green and low-carbon transformation as an important part of the future national energy system; As a strategic emerging industry and the key development direction of future industries, how can hydrogen energy truly realize industrialization? These discussions have also become the focus of the industry.
At present, what is the development of hydrogen energy industry in China? What guiding role does the relevant top-level design play in the high-quality development of hydrogen energy industry? In order to achieve the development goals of the Planning, how will the industry be laid out? In view of the above problems, the reporter communicated with relevant people in the industry.
According to the National Development and Reform Commission, hydrogen energy is similar to electric energy and is a common secondary energy, which needs to be obtained through primary energy conversion; The difference is that hydrogen energy has high energy density and simple storage mode, which is an ideal choice for large-scale and long-term energy storage and provides a solution for large-scale consumption of renewable energy. With the gradual maturity of hydrogen energy utilization technologies such as fuel cells, hydrogen energy-heat energy-electric energy will realize flexible conversion and coupling development.
As a secondary energy with abundant sources, green and low carbon and wide application, hydrogen energy is gradually becoming one of the important carriers of global energy transformation and development. The Planning clearly states that hydrogen energy is an important part of the future national energy system, and hydrogen energy industry is a strategic emerging industry and a key development direction of future industries.
As the largest hydrogen producer in the world, China’s annual hydrogen production is about 33 million tons, of which about 12 million tons meet the industrial hydrogen quality standard. The domestic hydrogen energy industry shows a positive development trend and has preliminarily mastered the main technologies and production processes such as hydrogen energy preparation, storage and hydrogen refueling stations (HRS), hydrogen fuel cells and system integration, and realized small-scale demonstration application of fuel cell vehicles in some areas. There are more than 300 industrial enterprises above designated size in the whole industrial chain, which are concentrated in Yangtze River Delta, Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei and other regions.
In this regard, Yang Baoying, deputy general manager of CIMC ENRIC and general manager of CIMC Hydrogen Energy (Hydrogen Energy Business Center), said, „The healthy and steady development of the early industry has laid a good foundation for the development of hydrogen energy from industry to market. The promulgation of the Planning will clarify the important position of hydrogen energy in China’s national energy system and point out that hydrogen energy industry is a strategic emerging industry and a key development direction of future industries. It can be said that after ten years of development and accumulation, the hydrogen energy industry will usher in new development opportunities brought by favorable policies. „
Zhang Chi, general manager of Jiangsu Qingneng New Energy Technology Co., Ltd. further stated that as a milestone in the top-level design of hydrogen energy, the Planning clearly defined the positioning of hydrogen energy industry from the national perspective. „Specifically, in terms of upstream hydrogen sources, the Planning clarifies the planning and direction of hydrogen preparation in China, strictly controls fossil energy and encourages green hydrogen. On the downstream application side, the Planning also defines the specific target in 2025, and points out the direction of efforts for the development of the industry. At the same time, the Planning repeatedly emphasizes safety issues, puts the urgent need to solve the problem of centralized management on the agenda, and puts forward requirements for future system innovation and system innovation. „
In fact, in terms of upstream hydrogen sources, the existing hydrogen supply system in China is mainly hydrogen production from fossil energy. Ou Yangming Gao, member of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and professor of Tsinghua University, once said, „If hydrogen is produced based on fossil energy, there are problems such as low energy utilization efficiency and high carbon dioxide emissions, which have been repeatedly questioned. Hydrogen production from renewable energy is an inevitable choice for adhering to the green and low-carbon development path.“
In order to ensure the better development of hydrogen energy industry in the direction of green and low carbon, the Planning also clearly proposes to build a clean, low-carbon and low-cost multi-hydrogen production system, focus on developing hydrogen production from renewable energy and strictly control hydrogen production from fossil energy. Accelerate the improvement of hydrogen production conversion efficiency of renewable energy and hydrogen production scale of a single device, and break through the key core technologies of hydrogen energy infrastructure.
At the same time, the Planning sets a development goal for hydrogen production from renewable energy. By 2025, the hydrogen production from renewable energy will reach 100,000-200,000 tons/year, which will become an important part of new hydrogen energy consumption and achieve carbon dioxide emission reduction of 1-2 million tons/year. By 2035, the proportion of hydrogen production from renewable energy in terminal energy consumption will increase significantly, which will play an important supporting role in the green transformation and development of energy.
According to the National Energy Administration, the installed capacity of renewable energy power generation in China is the largest in the world, and it has great potential in clean and low-carbon hydrogen energy supply, which is also the direction explicitly encouraged and supported by the Planning. In the next step, the National Energy Administration, together with relevant departments, will encourage the demonstration of hydrogen production from renewable energy in areas rich in wind, scenery and hydropower resources in accordance with the relevant planning arrangements. It is believed that the proportion of hydrogen production from renewable energy in terminal energy consumption will continue to increase in the future, providing strong support for the realization of the goals of carbon peaking and carbon neutralization.
„Although there is still a certain distance to realize the industrialization of truly zero-emission green hydrogen, the technological development of the industry is still advancing. At present, the hydrogen energy industry is making hydrogen while reducing carbon dioxide through various ways such as hydrogen production from industrial waste gas and natural gas. The production of this blue hydrogen has made full progress compared with gray hydrogen.“ Yang Baoying said that the whole industry is still in the development stage, and everyone needs to give it time to develop while giving it expectations.
It is worth mentioning that, in terms of application scenarios, the Planning clearly states that hydrogen energy is an important carrier for energy-using terminals to realize green and low-carbon transformation. Hydrogen energy is clean and low-carbon with cross-border application potential. It should guide diversified applications according to local conditions, promote the transformation of energy consumption in energy-using terminals such as transportation and industry, and the green development of industries with high energy consumption and high emission, so as to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Yang Baoying said, „From the current application of hydrogen energy, in addition to the application of hydrogen fuel cells in the field of automobile transportation, hydrogen is also regarded as an important direction of energy storage due to its own chemical characteristics, which is used to improve the flexible regulation ability of new power systems. In addition, hydrogen energy is widely used in metallurgy, heating and distributed energy applications. „
Taking the transportation field as an example, Zhang Chi said that the research and development of hydrogen fuel cells for vehicles in China has gone through the accumulation of four „five-year plans“, basically established a vehicle fuel cell technology platform with independent intellectual property rights, and launched multi-level demonstration operations including buses, trucks and special vehicles. In addition, in the field of distributed power generation, hydrogen fuel cell has attracted more and more attention in recent years. At present, many proton exchange membrane fuel cell technologies have been successfully applied in the field of small and medium-sized distributed power plants.
With regard to the future development of hydrogen energy in transportation, The National Energy Administration stressed that, Demonstration application in transportation field should be promoted in an orderly manner, focusing on the application of heavy vehicles in hydrogen fuel cells, expanding the market application space of new energy passenger and freight vehicles such as hydrogen fuel cell buses/trucks in an orderly manner, exploring demonstration application of hydrogen fuel cells in ships/aircraft and other fields, and continuously expanding the market scale of hydrogen energy application in transportation field.
According to the data released by China Automobile Association, the production and sales of fuel cell vehicles in China will be 1,777 and 1,586 respectively in 2021. According to the Planning, by 2025, the number of fuel cell vehicles in China will reach 50,000. In this regard, Zhang Chi believes that the landing of hydrogen fuel cell vehicle demonstration urban agglomeration will promote the growth of fuel cell vehicle ownership.
At the beginning of 2022, the second batch of national fuel cell vehicle demonstration application urban agglomerations were approved. After Henan and Hebei demonstration urban agglomerations joined, the „3 +2“ pattern of hydrogen fuel cell vehicle demonstration urban agglomerations was formed. As the first batch of demonstration urban agglomerations, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong have taken the lead in demonstrating the application of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
By the end of 2021, the three demonstration urban agglomerations in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong have been officially announced and launched one after another, facing more than 18 application scenarios such as ore and steel transportation, building materials transportation and vehicle logistics. It is planned to promote more than 20,000 fuel cell vehicles and build more than 306 hydrogen refueling stations.
„According to the vehicle promotion targets announced by each demonstration urban agglomeration, by 2025, a total of 33,000 fuel cell vehicles will be promoted in the five demonstration urban agglomerations. In addition, the second and third batch of demonstration urban agglomerations or many provinces and cities outside the demonstration groups also use their own resource endowments to vigorously promote fuel cell vehicles, including Hubei, Sichuan and Shandong. Therefore, by 2025, the number of fuel cell vehicles can reach or even exceed 50,000. „Zhang Chi said.
Zhang Chi further stated that „from the perspective of fuel cell vehicles and core components, to achieve the goal of 50,000 vehicles, enterprises need to speed up the upgrading iteration of technology, open up more terminal application scenarios, and actively explore the mode of industrial commercialization; In terms of capital, on the basis of its own industrial base and financial resources, enterprises should also vigorously introduce social capital, increase research and development efforts, and control the cost from core components to complete vehicles. „
In addition to the application of mobile fuel cells, the application of stationary fuel cells is also significant. “Globally, most projects focus on producing hydrogen from electrolysis of water and the usage of hydrogen in fuel cell busses or trucks. Many demonstration projects focus on mobility solutions such as using hydrogen in ships, trains, planes, forklifts and so on. However, there are hundreds of demonstration projects for other technologies or scenarios”, said Stephan Duch, Co-CEO of Guizhou Hydrogen Energy Efficiency Technologies Co., Ltd.
“We, from Guizhou HEE, focus on the development and production of stationary fuel cell systems, because we believe this will be one of the most important components in the future energy infrastructure. Clean and efficient hydrogen directly provides power and heat to users through a stationary fuel cell system. Stationary fuel cell systems are used in hotels, hospitals, communities, data centers and can form virtual power plants and provide regional heating while being centralized controlled; The centralized stationary fuel cell system can be a component of the new power system, which can cooperate with the peak shaving of the power grid to achieve the goal of „double carbon“.
Although China has become the largest hydrogen producer in the world, The hydrogen energy industry shows a positive development trend, However, the Planning also points out that, on the whole, China’s hydrogen energy industry is still in the early stage of development. Compared with the international advanced level, there are still some problems and challenges, such as weak industrial innovation capability, low level of technical equipment, lagging basic system supporting industrial development, and further exploration of industrial development patterns and development paths.
In this regard, the National Development and Reform Commission said that it is necessary to adhere to the path of innovation and development, increase support for scientific and technological and industrial innovation, constantly break through key core technologies and iteratively upgrade market application, so as to realize the transformation from „following the trend“ to „running at the same level“ and even „leading the trend“, thus maintaining the safety and stability of the industrial chain and supply chain.
At the same time, the Planning also emphasizes encouraging international joint research and development of hydrogen energy science and technology, promoting innovation cooperation in key core technologies, materials and equipment of the whole hydrogen energy industry chain, and actively building an international hydrogen energy innovation chain and industry chain. Adhere to the principle of joint construction and sharing, and explore cooperation in hydrogen energy trade, infrastructure construction and product development with countries that jointly build the „the belt and road initiative“. Strengthen project cooperation with countries and regions with leading hydrogen energy technology, and jointly explore third-party international markets.
Yang Baoying said, „Taking Japan as an example, Japan, as a country with a relatively deep development of hydrogen energy industry, has strong technology accumulation in hydrogen production and hydrogen storage technologies such as proton exchange membrane fuel cell technology, photolysis of water hydrogen production catalyst, etc., which can be used for reference by China’s hydrogen energy industry.“
However, Yang Baoying also mentioned that China’s industry needs to be cautious about the challenges facing industrial development. „The complex environment faced by the industrialization of Japan’s hydrogen energy industry is the main reason for the obstruction of the development of Japan’s hydrogen energy industry, which is essentially different from the development environment of domestic hydrogen energy industry.“
Yang Baoying believes that Japan’s hydrogen energy industry is developed on the premise of „export“. Facing the complicated global market situation, once the export is blocked, the development of Japan’s hydrogen energy industry will inevitably be affected. Taking hydrogen-powered vehicles as an example, Japanese companies have invested a lot of costs in related aspects, hoping to bet on the development direction of new energy vehicles. However, from the current results, the global market has chosen the development route of „pure electric“, and Japanese hydrogen-powered vehicles have been shelved.
At the same time, during the global cooperation of hydrogen industry, international standardization gets increasingly important. The “Planning” emphasizes actively participating in international hydrogen standardized activities. In this regard, Stephan Duch said, „hydrogen standards should be aligned with that of the international community as much as possible. The application of hydrogen in multiple scenarios requires standardized system support, such as hydrogen pipelines and natural gas pipeline networks.“
In addition, Stephan Duch believes that a unified system of fuel cell application, and the design, construction and acceptance standards of power generation system is conducive to the integrated cooperation of technology and products in the international hydrogen industry and can also accelerate the scenario application and products to play their advantages in the new development pattern of „dual cycle“. Relying on relatively uniform standards, hydrogen energy equipment will be sold to different countries and commercialized quickly. But generally speaking, hydrogen energy standardization has achieved good results in the field of fuel cell vehicles.
In Zhang Chi’s view, „fully participating in global cooperation and competition can make domestic brands accept the test of the market faster, and at the same time, they can be in line with international standards in product development and further enhance the competitiveness of products.“
China Hydrogen Energy Alliance predicted that by 2025, the output value of China’s hydrogen energy industry will reach 1 trillion yuan; By 2050, hydrogen energy will account for more than 10% of China’s terminal energy system, and the annual output value of the industrial chain will reach 12 trillion yuan.
„In the future, with the establishment of a unified national market, the hydrogen energy industry can achieve scientific and effective construction of related infrastructure, achieve effective circulation of upstream and downstream demand, help achieve the goal of carbon peaking and carbon neutralization, and build a low-carbon, safe and efficient energy system.“ Yang Baoying said.