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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C

The Explainer: What is hydrogen power, and could it replace coal, oil, and gas?

James Carton, assistant professor in Sustainable Energy with DCU and an academic advisor to the United Nations on hydrogen, joins us on this week’s podcast to discuss this lesser spotted form of energy. How do you make it? Where could it be used instead of fossil fuels? Could it be part of a clean energy future, or does it amount to simply greenwashing?

A DEFINING FOCUS of the next century will be the race to develop clean and sustainable forms of energy as the need to to reduce carbon emissions becomes increasingly important.

In the bad books are oil, coal, and natural gas. Renewables like wind, solar, tidal, hydropower, and geothermal offer the solution, with alternative sources like nuclear or biomass also potentially forming part of the picture.

But another source (or energy carrier, to be exact) hasn’t quite entered our lexicon yet, and – depending on how it is produced – can fall in any of those classes: hydrogen.

Hydrogen has the potential to fill existing gaps in our energy market, and offer a scale in a way that isn’t quite attainable with battery power using current technologies.

But it’s not without its problems. It can be produced using fossil fuels (such as ‘blue’ and ‘grey’ hydrogen from gas, or ‘black’ and ‘brown’ hydrogen’ from coal) meaning there’s a risk of remaining reliant on these finite resources.

Even ‘green’ hydrogen, produced from purely renewable sources, must be approached in a way that doesn’t divert this energy away from where its better used.

Joining us on this week’s episode is James Carton, assistant professor in Sustainable Energy in DCU, founder of Hydrogen Ireland Association, and an academic advisor to the United Nations on hydrogen.

He explained the basics of hydrogen, what it could be used for and where it shouldn’t be used, and detailed how it could form part of energy systems in future.

The Explainer / SoundCloud

This episode was created by presenter Laura Byrne, senior producer Nicky Ryan and executive producer Sinéad O’Carroll.

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