H₂ToBe: There is no hydrogen future without considering geopolitical and societal dynamics

We consider hydrogen a key element in our future decarbonized energy system, but what about its geopolitics and societal dynamics? In the H₂ToBe action research project, we are working with governments, knowledge institutes and established companies to develop scenarios for responsible hydrogen trade in 2040.
When we started this research project at the end of 2021, The Netherlands was still in a lockdown as a result of the coronavirus’s omicron variant and we did not foresee a war in Eastern Europe as well as a steep increase in geopolitical tensions for 2022. But here we are. The geopolitics of the energy transition are suddenly high on the agenda, as are societal concerns like the affordability of energy, solidarity and what a just energy transition actually means.
In our Hydrogen To Be (H₂ToBe) research project, we look beyond the events of today and focus on the geopolitical and societal implications of international low-carbon trade by developing scenarios for 2040. While the corona crisis and Ukraine war point out that geopolitics and societal dynamics are important, they are often overlooked in current hydrogen studies and strategies. These often consider open global markets as a given, where costs will be the most influential factor for hydrogen trade.
Our research adds to this by also considering other forces like energy security, choices in sustainability pathways, (geo)political leadership and solidarity. And we consider further future shocks, as we know from the past that disruptive events are inherent in transitions. Such events may be hard to predict but nonetheless we should consider and prepare for them.
This is why we are developing scenarios that consider the geopolitical and societal implications of international hydrogen trade in Northwestern Europe in 2040 and their implications for port industrial clusters in the Netherlands. Our interdisciplinary team uses an eight-step scenario method and collaborates with a group of funding partners and stakeholders from both government and business to co-create key strategic insights and action perspective to actively work on our hydrogen future.
DRIFT team: Igno Notermans
Duration: November 2021 – November 2022
Funding partners: Resilient Delta, Smartport, Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, Port of Rotterdam Authority & Province of South Holland.
Research partners: Clingendael International Energy Programme, DRIFT – Erasmus University, TU Delft & UPT – Erasmus University.
Stakeholders: BP, Deltalinqs, Municipality of Rotterdam, Varo energy, Vopak & Shell.