Role of hydrogen in low-carbon energy transition

Feb 19, 2024

Dr. Sergey Paltsev, MIT, speaks on the role of hydrogen in low-carbon energy transition


Hottest month on record. Extreme marine heatwaves. Record-low Antarctic sea-ice. While El Niño was a short-term factor 2023's record-breaking heat, human-caused climate change is the main reason for longterm record breaking temperatures. Can using hydrogen as a fuel be part of the solution?

Current efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not strong enough to stop global temperatures from exceeding critical limits. Between 2020 and 2050, population and economic growth will increase energy needs. Achieving current Paris Agreement pledges will reduce reliance on fossil fuels, but more actions are needed for a faster transition to low-carbon energy sources.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently released a report analysing the risks and benefits of existing climate policies. The report emphasises the need for faster action to stabilise the climate and protect human and natural systems. It also discusses projections for energy transition, highlighting the importance of reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

The report considers two scenarios: one where current commitments continue and another with more ambitious accelerated actions to limit global warming. The accelerated scenario aims to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2100. The electric power sector is expected to scale up successfully, but other sectors face challenges in decarbonisation efforts.
For example, MIT's Global Change Outlook projects sectors like heavy-duty long-distance transport, high-temperature industrial heat, agriculture and chemical production will continue to have a sizeable need for hydrocarbons in the form of liquid and gaseous fuels. Hydrogen-based fuels and renewable natural gas remain attractive options, but challenges related to their scaling opportunities and costs must be resolved. Studies on the use of hydrogen in steelmaking, shipping and land transportation show substantial government-supported R&D, infrastructure development and financial incentives are needed to realise the potential of hydrogen-based solutions. 


About this event

This seminar was organised by Motu Research and Te Tai Ōhanga - The Treasury, as part of The Treasury's Productivity in a Changing World seminar series. 

Date and time: Monday, 19 February, 1pm - 2.30pm
Location: The Treasury, Level 3, 1 The Terrace, Wellington, hybrid event

About the presenter

Dr. Sergey Paltsev is a Deputy Director of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Energy Initiative and MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR), and a Director of the MIT Energy-at-Scale Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, USA.

He is the lead modeler in charge of the MIT Economic Projection and Policy Analysis (EPPA) model of the world economy.

His research covers a wide range of topics including energy economics, climate policy, taxation, advanced energy technologies, and international trade. Sergey is an Advisory Board Member for the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP) Consortium and a Member of the Economy-Wide Modeling Panel for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science Advisory Board. Dr. Paltsev is an author of more than 100 peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals and books.

Sergey was a Lead Author of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In 2007-2008 Dr. Paltsev was a member of the Expert Panel on the Economics of Climate Change for the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).



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