Hydrogen is one key towards energy transition of industries

By Kai Mykkänen, Minister of Climate and the Environment of Finland (pictured)
Winter 2023

Kai Mykkänen, Minister of Climate and the Environment of FinlandFinland is the most northern country in the EU. We are known for being the home of forest industry and Nokia, but more and more we are also known as the forerunner in green transition. We have also taken a very ambitious climate goal as we want to be carbon neutral by 2035.
We have a good track record in engineering and our industries have succeeded in different circumstances over the decades. The latest challenge – and opportunity – is to bring clean hydrogen into energy and industrial systems.
Hydrogen will play a remarkable role in the big green transition in the coming years. The hydrogen of the future will all be clean, which is not the case today.

However, I would be careful to use the concept Hydrogen Economy as the future will not be built only around hydrogen. It may not sound as compelling to talk about electricity but the fact is we will use much more electricity in the future, and not only in road transport but in many other fields of the society as well. Some of this electricity will be transformed into hydrogen and some of the hydrogen will be key component in e-fuels.

Expectations towards hydrogen in recent years have been huge, but today it is easy to say some of expectations have been unrealistic, at least when look at the potential on short term. But I am quite convinced the role will be much bigger on the long term – even though we do not know yet where hydrogen will be used and where not. It is obvious hydrogen will be integrated into energy system and it will become essential part of it.

But we must understand the breakthrough takes time as we can learn from the battery industries. The expectations on batteries were high some five to six years ago when every country in EU wanted to have a gigafactory of it's own. The landscape has changed remarkably during the last year as the industry is evolving on much slower pace than expected. Nevertheless, despite all the gloom, the industry is still evolving and growing.

In the big picture the EU and the Battery Alliance have done great job in helping a new industry to emerge. We all hope we are able to replicate the same success in the field of hydrogen with strong support coming from the Hydrogen Alliance.

In Finland we have been exploring the potential of green hydrogen as part of our efforts to move to a more sustainable low-carbon economy. We aim to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality in the coming decades. As part of these efforts the previous government published a national resolution on hydrogen in early 2023 with strong focus on green hydrogen.

We have abundant renewable energy resources, including wind, solar, bioenergy and hydropower. Utilizing these sources for electrolysis to produce green hydrogen aligns with our commitment to sustainable energy.

"Our national electricity grid is strong and resilient, and widely viewed as world class. It would be easy to introduce supply (wind power) or consumption (hydrogen production) without limits."

For e-fuels, there is very much of bio-CO2 available from forest industry and district heating CHP-plants around the country. The district heating network is ideal for the heat upgraded with heat pumps from hydrogen and e-fuels production. There is plenty of sweet water around. This is such an obvious advantage that we do not always remember it ourselves.

We are also supporting research and development initiatives related to hydrogen technologies. This includes projects aimed at improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of electrolysis, as well as exploring various applications for hydrogen.

We have identified various industrial sectors where hydrogen could play a crucial role in decarbonization. Industries such as steel, chemicals, and transportation are areas where green hydrogen can be used as a clean energy carrier. Combined with the availability of biogenic CO2 from the forest industries, abundant provision of clean water as well as of many strategic minerals, Finland offers an inviting investment environment for clean industries.

Taking all this into account, it should not come as a big surprise that we have a remarkable amount of green transition investments in the pipeline, the total value of the projects exceeding €200 billion.

We are also actively engaged in international collaborations and partnerships to advance different hydrogen initiatives. Collaboration with other European countries and participation in global hydrogen initiatives contribute to the sharing of knowledge and best practices.

To support the widespread adoption of hydrogen, Finland is investing in the development of hydrogen infrastructure, including production facilities, storage, and distribution networks. It is not enough to look only at production and consumption of hydrogen but also at the whole ecosystem.

Finland has been working on creating a supportive policy and regulatory framework to encourage the growth of the hydrogen sector. This includes incentives for businesses and industries to adopt green hydrogen solutions.

With the help of green and clean hydrogen, we are aiming to turn our sustainable economy to become even more sustainable, while also providing exciting opportunities for businesses and talented people. We are not focusing only on the green transition within Finland as we are able to provide solutions on much wider scale, for the global markets.