We've updated our Privacy Policy to make it clearer how we use your personal data. We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. You can read our Cookie Policy here.


Supercharging Green Hydrogen Production To Achieve Net Zero

Human finger pointing to four square wooden blocks forming a larger square, with the words "net zero" printed in green font. In the background there are blurred out leaves.
Listen with
Register for free to listen to this article
Thank you. Listen to this article using the player above.

Want to listen to this article for FREE?

Complete the form below to unlock access to ALL audio articles.

Read time: 3 minutes

Across the world, net zero targets have been cemented, with most countries, regions, cities and even businesses aiming for climate neutrality by 2050. To get there, green hydrogen is playing an increasingly pivotal role.


As a versatile and sustainable energy solution, it not only has the potential to decarbonize multiple sectors and fight climate change but also to enhance energy security and foster economic growth and innovation globally.


Unfortunately, as of now, it only represents a very small fraction of global hydrogen production, with 98% coming from fossil fuels. However, as the cost competitiveness of clean hydrogen increases and deadlines to decarbonization edge closer, we expect to see demand for grey hydrogen plummet.


In fact, by 2050, clean hydrogen could make up 73–100% of total hydrogen demand, with only a small fraction being met by grey hydrogen. But to achieve this, there is a lot of work to be done, particularly in the realm of technological innovation.


A need to advance electrolysis technologies


Electrolysis is one of the most common and direct ways to generate green hydrogen, where electricity derived from renewable sources like wind, solar or hydropower is used to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. 


There are currently various electrolyzers either on the market or in development, the main four being alkaline electrolyzers, proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers, anion exchange membrane (AEM) electrolyzers and solid oxide (SOEC) electrolyzers. 


Some, like alkaline electrolyzers, use tried and tested technology that’s been used for more than 50 years. Needless to say, this is one clear area that needs an injection of technological innovation if we are to meet the rising demand for green hydrogen.


Right now, innovators are focused on various improvements, including durability, scalability and operational flexibility. But according to the IRENA’s 2022 patent insight report “Innovation Trends in Electrolysers for Hydrogen Production, there’s been a substantial increase in invention activity aimed at reducing costs. And that’s because by lowering the capital and operating costs of electrolyzers so that green hydrogen production is cheaper than fossil-based hydrogen, widespread adoption will follow and grey hydrogen will be phased out. 

There are lots of exciting developments happening in this field, with innovations in manufacturing processes, material selection, system integration and scale-up all working to drive cost reductions across the entire value chain.

At Bramble Energy, for example, we are currently working on integrating printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing techniques with AEM technology. The idea is that the modular nature of PCB designs could allow these integrated electrolyzers to be easily scaled up or down depending on the required hydrogen production capacity, making it suitable for everything from small-scale mobile applications to larger, industrial-scale hydrogen production. It could also lead to a more compact, efficient and less expensive electrolyzer, whereas the precision of PCB manufacturing allows reliable manufacturing at scale.


Why we need to ditch working in silos


Alongside the innovators and investors, governments play an equally crucial role in driving the transition to clean hydrogen.


The UK was the first major economy to legislate a net zero target for 2050, focusing on emissions reductions across all sectors. Energy sovereignty was also emphasized as part of their energy policy, as highlighted by the Labour Party’s £28bn green investment pledge in 2021, which saw money promised to hydrogen power, among other green initiatives.


However, when party leader Keir Starmer announced that the green prosperity plan would be cut in half to less than £15 billion, it was disheartening, to say the least. The UK boasts world-leading talent and innovations in combating the impacts of climate change, but sustained government support and, more importantly, essential investment are necessary to sustain these efforts.


To reach our ambitious net zero emissions targets, we not only need to stick to long-term action, but need academia, industry and policymakers to work as a team rather than in silos.


We need to allow academia to innovate, research and develop; allow industry to put those innovations into practice for blueprint and commercialization purposes; and encourage policymakers to support with subsidization policies for the use of green hydrogen, set targets with investment funds, and keep green hydrogen production at the forefront of climate action policy.


While green prosperity plans being slashed is certainly discouraging, there is still promise. Investment into electrolysis projects has increased threefold since 2020 and, as well as a growing number of hydrogen projects and innovations, we’re seeing lots of work towards establishing supportive policies and regulatory frameworks, which will be critical in gaining public acceptance and confidence. These developments are a great indication that the hydrogen industry is gaining momentum, even if the road to net zero remains rocky.

About the author:

Dr. Tom Mason, CEO at Bramble Energy, is an experienced engineer with a demonstrated history of developing and commercializing novel high-impact technologies with a global reach, including a revolutionary advance in hydrogen fuel cells. Completing his PhD at University College London in 2013, Tom led the engineering and manufacturing development of the innovative PCBFC™ as a postdoctoral research associate. As a co-founder of Bramble Energy, Tom joined the company as a director and chief technology officer when the company spun out of UCL and Imperial College in 2016 before taking up the role of CEO in September 2017.