The geopolitical significance of hydrogen

Huge solar panels in a desert

Planta Solar Cerro Dominador in Chile, © Thomas Imo/photothek.net

14.01.2022 - Article

Hydrogen is a key element in the global energy transition – and therefore an important factor in the fight against human-induced global warming. A new study by IRENA analyses the geopolitical effects of the global energy transition as well as the development of a global hydrogen market.

In recent years, hydrogen has become a key element in the global energy transition – and therefore in efforts to meet global climate targets. This is because hydrogen and its downstream products (“power-to-X”) create new possibilities for decarbonisation, particularly in industries where electrification is challenging. Hydrogen is sustainable in the long term when it is generated from renewable sources; this is known as green hydrogen. A growing number of countries have developed hydrogen strategies. At the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, 32 states and the EU agreed to cooperate on developing and using hydrogen.

The global energy transition is also leading to geopolitical changes. Traditional exporters of fossil fuels now face the need to adapt their economic systems. Many countries, meanwhile, have new opportunities to diversify their economy and become producers and exporters of energy. Hydrogen plays an important role in this context, as it enables energy from renewable sources to be transported and stored.

Analysing the geopolitics of the global energy transition

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has released a new study analysing the geopolitical effects of this transformation. According to the study, hydrogen will have a far-reaching influence on energy supply chains in the coming years. One aspect of this is that a number of countries where there are favourable conditions for the production of renewable energy could become energy exporters. The study also forecasts a regionalisation of energy grids as well as competition for technological domination. Trade in hydrogen and its downstream products, as well as investment flows, will have an effect on bilateral relations and will create new ties and dependencies. The Federal Foreign Office actively supported and helped fund the production of the study as part of its hydrogen diplomacy work.

Further information

Project website of Germany's hydrogen diplomacy offices

Hydrogen diplomacy: Germany opens Hydrogen Office in Nigeria

Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 2021


Top of page