Madrid: While hydrogen could one day be a green and abundant energy source for the world, Iberdrola, the world's third largest private renewable electric utility provider, admits it's difficult to commercialise this future energy source without government subsidies.
The company also says that hydrogen may not be suitable as the energy source for passenger cars but rather heavy logistics and industry.
Armando Martinez Martinez, Iberdrola's chief executive officer, said that while hydrogen has been used by industry for decades, it has yet to offer a viable solution as a fuel source for consumers, especially in passenger cars.
Mr Martinez said 90% of hydrogen used by customers comes from conventional, non-renewable methods, due to economic factors.
Martínez: Heavy-duty use better
He said customers are reluctant to pay more for green hydrogen, and government subsidies would be needed to bridge the cost gap. The United States, he says, stands out as a leader in subsidising hydrogen production, making it easier for companies to adopt sustainable practices.
He was speaking during a visit to Madrid by executives of PTT Plc, the Thai national energy conglomerate, which is exploring the future energy development including hydrogen.
The conversation shed light on the challenges of transporting hydrogen efficiently. Despite the hydrogen industry's long history, there is still no widely adopted method for transporting hydrogen other than in "bottles", said Mr Martinez.
He was referring to storing hydrogen gas in high-pressure cylinders or containers made of strong materials to ensure safety during transport. The Iberdrola chief argued that existing gas pipelines are not suitable for hydrogen transport, as gas can damage the pipelines. He also dismissed the idea of using ammonia as a carrier, saying it adds unnecessary complexity and cost to the process.
He also discussed the impracticality of using hydrogen for private vehicles, as charging infrastructure and user habits do not align with hydrogen's requirements. He said hydrogen might be more suited to heavy vehicles and transport services, where larger energy capacities are necessary. Mr Martinez stressed the role of government subsidies in making hydrogen energy economically viable and underscored the challenges in transporting hydrogen efficiently.