Foreword to the Green Hydrogen Standard

Unlocking Green Hydrogen’s vast potential

The central importance of green hydrogen in the transition to net zero is clearer than ever. Every week brings another wave of green hydrogen announcements: new national strategies, government incentives, industry commitments and collaboration, research insights and advocacy.

We have stopped debating if green hydrogen is a solution. The question is how quickly we can make it happen.

As a fuel, when hydrogen is used its only emission is water (H20). But if all forms of hydrogen are zero emission when used, they are definitely not when produced.

It is essential therefore that we reach agreement on global standards that define green hydrogen. This is not just a technical issue. Everyone needs to know that “green” hydrogen means hydrogen produced without significant associated greenhouse gas emission. This is in contrast to most of the hydrogen used today which is made from methane by processes that typically result in more than ten kilos of CO2 emissions for each kilo of hydrogen.

There is a growing appreciation that green hydrogen is the only hydrogen production option strictly aligned with a 1.5-degree pathway.

However, even among supporters of green hydrogen, there are different views about how to define renewable electricity, how to measure emissions, and what, if any, sustainability criteria should apply. Green hydrogen and green hydrogen derivatives will be globally traded commodities. A standard is needed to build trust and confidence between investors, producers, customers and consumers. We also need a social license to operate from the communities that will host green hydrogen production. There are clear risks that, if not managed to a high standard, the green hydrogen revolution will stall.

It is for these reasons we have developed and agreed this Standard, the Green Hydrogen Standard. It establishes a global definition of green hydrogen: Green hydrogen is hydrogen produced through the electrolysis of water with 100% or near 100% renewable energy with close to zero greenhouse gas emissions. We invite green hydrogen producers to have their project independently accredited by GH2. Projects that meet the Standard, as set out below, will be licensed by GH2’s accreditation body to use the label “GH2 Green Hydrogen” and will be eligible to obtain and trade GH2 certificates of origin.

Green hydrogen is sometimes characterised as having zero greenhouse gas emissions. However, the production of renewable electricity can involve some greenhouse gas emissions. There can be greenhouse gas emissions associated with green hydrogen production and associated processes (such as water treatment and desalination). And some projects have non-renewable back-up power systems. Accordingly, GH2 refers to “close to zero greenhouse gas emissions”. The Standard requires that green hydrogen projects operate at <=1 kg CO2e per kg H2 (taken as an average over a 12-month period).

This revised edition of the Standard also includes the Green Ammonia Protocol. The majority of export-oriented green hydrogen projects plan to ship ammonia. Ammonia is preferred for three reasons: its energy density; its proven synthesis technology and existing supply chains; and its potential to drive decarbonisation in its own right. As with green hydrogen, a clear definition of green ammonia is needed. The Protocol expects green ammonia projects to operate at <=.3 kg CO2e per kg NH3 (taken as an average over a 12-month period).

In both cases, GH2 will review the performance of GH2 accredited projects on an annual basis, with the expectation that the boundaries of the emissions assessment framework can be widened and that the emissions threshold will be lowered in accordance with emerging best practice. GH2 will also extend this work to other green hydrogen derivatives.

GH2’s definition of renewable energy is based on the technologies that are the leading candidates for scaling up green hydrogen production: hydropower, wind, solar, geothermal, tidal and other ocean energy sources. Some countries believe that there is a role for nuclear energy to accelerate the shift from more polluting activities, such as coal generation. However, nuclear power has environmental and safety related issues which this Standard is not designed to address. Similarly, there are sustainability issues related to biomass and waste to energy that require careful scrutiny. GH2 welcomes the Green Hydrogen Standard inspiring further rules and standards for nuclear and other forms of energy production with close to zero emissions.

The Standard requires that the environmental, social and governance aspects of green hydrogen production are addressed. It requires that the development opportunities and impacts of green hydrogen production and use are considered. These are vital considerations for investors, customers, consumers and the communities that host green hydrogen projects.

GH2 has been established to build the energy systems of the future. Green hydrogen is a vastly superior technology to fossil fuels and will inevitably replace them. The only question is when, and we are running out of time. If you are committed to the energy transition, reach out to us here at GH2. We have a planet to save and no time to waste.

Malcolm Turnbull

Chairman of the Green Hydrogen Organisation