International Hydrogen Policies – Key Features

March 11th, 2021

Hydrogen is emerging as an important element in the decarbonisation pathway of many economies.

International Hydrogen Policies – Key Features

The HyResource site includes a full suite of global hydrogen specific or related policy documentation. National, state/provincial and supra-national (e.g. the European Commission – EC) jurisdictions are included. Documentation types summarised include:

  • National (and state/provincial) hydrogen-specific Visions, Strategies and Roadmaps
  • Hydrogen-relevant Policy Statements, Reports, and
  • Specifically in the case of the United States, inclusion of the US Department of Energy (DOE) Hydrogen Program Plan released in November 2020.

The catalogue focusses on official releases, including where Government is a partner in its preparation or has commissioned a study.

In total, as at end February 2021, almost 30 jurisdictions are represented. Major interest centres around Europe, Asia / Pacific and the Americas (though parts of Africa and the Middle East are expected to announce national hydrogen-specific plans in 2021).

The purpose of this Features article is to synthesis key points from these documents:

  • Hydrogen is emerging as an important element in the decarbonisation pathway of many economies. As at end February 2021, HyResource lists 15 countries that have released national hydrogen-specific Vision, Strategy or Roadmap documents; these countries account for around 30 per cent of global GDP (2010 Constant US$, World Bank). The bulk of these documents, along with the EC’s A Hydrogen Strategy for a Climate-Neutral Europe, were released in 2020, the first in 2017 (Japan). Several countries (e.g. the United Kingdom, Poland, Saudi Arabia) are developing national hydrogen strategies anticipated for release in 2021.
  • The United States and China, which collectively account for around 35 per cent of world GDP, have not published national hydrogen-specific Strategy or Roadmap documents. The US DOE, for example, administers (amongst other things) hydrogen-related research programs while individual federal states follow their own strategies with respect to energy supply (where California leads in hydrogen energy policy formulation). In China, the national government has released policies targeted at specific applications (especially mobility) though it is reported that several Provinces have released policies that specifically address hydrogen.
  • Hydrogen generated from renewable sources dominates discussion in the various documentation types though several jurisdictions (e.g. the Scottish Government, Norway, Canada – Alberta Province) acknowledge the role that can be played by low-carbon hydrogen production linked to carbon capture and storage (CCS) / carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS).
  • Hydrogen production ambitions / targets to 2030 represent a massive increase in production capability from the present megawatt levels; for example:
    • The EC Strategy notes that, in its second phase from 2025-2030, hydrogen needs to become an intrinsic part of an integrated European Union (EU) energy system, with a strategic objective at least 40 gigawatts (GW) of renewable hydrogen electrolysers installed in the EU by 2030 (and the production of up to 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen) rising from a strategic objective of at least 6 GW by 2024 (at the end of the first phase).
    • The Chile Strategy has an ambition that by 2030 Chile is among the leaders in the production of green hydrogen by electrolysis (25 GW capacity)
    • The Australian Strategy includes a ‘2030 Measures of Success’ that by 2030 Australia is among the top three exporters of hydrogen to Asian markets
    • The Republic of Korea Roadmap foresees / targets hydrogen supply/demand in 2030 at around 1.9 million tons per annum and at over 5 million tons in 2040 (vs 130,000 tons in 2018) though it is difficult to specify the role of clean hydrogen (domestically produced and imported) in meeting industry supply / demand projections.
  • It is not possible to quantify the full extent of financial resources required to implement the ambitions / targets included in the various documentation types. Focus varies across documents and while several include investment estimates and / or financial support measures that are able to be accessed, discussion is not always of a uniform quality. The EC Strategy (released in July 2020) provides a flavour of the task required; overall (EU) investment needs in the period 2020-2030 are estimated across a range of areas:
    • Investments in electrolysers – €24-42 billion
    • Scaling up of associated solar and wind production / connection capacity – €220-340 billion
    • Investments in hydrogen transport, distribution and storage, and hydrogen refuelling stations – around €65 billion
    • Investments in retrofitting half of the existing plants with carbon capture and storage – around €11 billion
  • A common theme is the importance of reducing the cost of hydrogen production; several documents include a target production cost for clean hydrogen of US$2 per kilogram or lower (at site of production). There is widespread focus on research and development, including on next generation uses of hydrogen (e.g. use in decarbonised ships and aircraft and in steel production). Production scaling-up effects and the associated ‘learning experiences’ are also considered important in supporting technology development / cost reduction.
  • Main end-use applications tend to focus on mobility and industrial-use with several plans also prioritising hydrogen for heating and use in gas networks. Mobility applications are global; while plans in the Asian region encompass a fuller range of mobility options (passenger vehicles, trucks, buses/commercial vehicles, etc.) those in Europe tend to be directed more to heavy transport uses. Use of hydrogen fuel cells in building and power applications tends to be emphasised more in Asian plans than those in Europe.
  • A significant trade in hydrogen (and establishment of international supply chains) would be anticipated if plans reach fruition. Germany, South Korea and Japan (for example) indicate in their plans the opportunities available for the importation of hydrogen energy while Australia, Canada and Chile have indicated ambitions of being significant exporters of hydrogen (including through derivative products such as ammonia). Saudi Arabia has recently indicated ambitions to be a world-leading producer / exporter of hydrogen. Considerable investments would be required not only in production capabilities but also in associated logistical infrastructure in both hydrogen importing / exporting countries.
  • While time frames for action are not uniform in the various document types (several contain ambitions / targets to 2050, many do not) nearly all place a marker on expectations by 2030 (either quantitative or qualitative), including significant import / export capability.
  • Jurisdictions that plan to be significant hydrogen exporters or see significant exports of hydrogen (and derivative products) as ‘the prize’, generally foresee domestic applications as an initial step with exports targeted for the second half of this decade.

Other resources

Several more comprehensive documents (from which this Feature article received inspiration) on international hydrogen policies can be accessed by interested readers. They include:

Direct comparisons with the HyResource catalogue should be undertaken with caution as the hierarchy of document types analysed varies though the key messages present a consistent flavour.


The principal author of this Features article is Peter Grubnic, HyResource Project Lead: