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Climate neutrality involves drastically reducing the amount of pollutants emitted into the atmosphere, above all those generated in energy production. The first changes are already visible - according to the Instrat Foundation, based on data made available by the Energy Market Agency, the share of hard coal and lignite in the production of electricity has decreased in Poland in the last year from 73% to around 70%. The percentage of energy coming from biomass and biogas, on the other hand, is growing and exceeds about 6% of production altogether, and photovoltaics provides about 1.2% of energy. These are positive developments, but they are nevertheless insufficient to achieve the energy transition plans.
The European Union has set the Member States an ambitious task - by 2050 the Community is to achieve climate neutrality. This means that in the coming years not only will a very significant financial outlay be necessary to achieve this plan, but also an emphasis on investment in the development of modern technology.
A solution and an increasingly popular development is the use of hydrogen as a power source for transport. On the one hand, this makes it possible to reduce the share of fossil fuels in the energy mix; on the other, it enables the development of zero-emission transport, which is environmentally friendly and reduces CO2 emissions. It also fits in with the tasks assigned to local governments by the Act on Electromobility and Alternative Fuels of 11 January 2018. According to it, cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants are obliged to ensure the share of zero-emission buses in their fleet, at least in the amount of:
The share of zero-emission buses in the fleet was set at 30%, with a deadline of 1 January 2028. It should be noted that the last requirement has already been implemented in Zielona Góra and Jaworzno, which shows the interest of local governments in such solutions.
Poland takes the implementation of the assumptions of the "New Green Deal" very seriously, which can be seen, inter alia, in the funds allocated for the purchase of zero-emission buses (two times about PLN 1.2 billion each as part of the Green Public Transport programme), as well as in the work on the Polish Hydrogen Strategy, which is to be published in the autumn of this year. Involvement in the development of hydrogen technologies is partly due to the fact that as a country we are a significant producer of this element, although in the race to hydrogenise the economy, we still have a lot of catching up to do.
- At the same time, we are late in the race to build a network of hydrogen stations, which we do not have at the moment, while in other countries there are already several dozen of them - emphasised prof. Brzeżański.
Poland is one of the leading hydrogen producers and in this respect occupies 5th-6th place in Europe, which gives us good opportunities. At the same time, we are late in the race to build a network of hydrogen stations, which we do not have at the moment, while in other countries there are already several dozen of them.prof. Marek Brzeżański
The main problem is the lack of legal regulations which, for the time being, holds back large-scale investments by local and private entities. Although a lot is changing in this matter - the first stationary hydrogen filling stations are to be built in the coming months - this has been announced by PKN ORLEN, which intends to build 54 such stations.
However, the challenge is not only the lack of refuelling infrastructure, but also the fact that the majority of hydrogen production concerns unpurified hydrogen, i.e. hydrogen which cannot be used directly for transport. Poland is leading the way in the production of grey hydrogen, which does not solve environmental problems. Its purification requires energy and water. However, according to prof. Brzeżański, it is a transitional problem - first let us learn to use what we have, then we will start to use more and more green hydrogen produced ecologically with the use of energy from renewable sources - emphasizes the professor.
It is also important to implement hydrogen technologies and build the value chain in a way that enables connecting various sectors of the economy. So that both production, transmission and distribution to the end user create an economically viable investment. - It is not enough for hundreds of hydrogen powered cars to be on the streets - a whole network of hydrogen users needs to be created, starting with public transport companies and, in the longer term, large production plants and gasworks. Creating a demand for hydrogen will stimulate the development of infrastructure and new propulsion sources using this energy carrier.
It is not enough for hundreds of hydrogen powered cars to be on the streets - a whole network of hydrogen users needs to be created, starting with public transport companies and, in the longer term, large production plants and gasworks.prof. Marek Brzeżański
Also worthy of note is the growing interest in the use of hydrogen in railways - The first hydrogen trains are already running in Europe, e.g. in Germany, but such solutions may soon appear on Polish tracks. The will to cooperate has been recently expressed by signing an agreement between PKP SA, PKN Orlen and Pesa from Bydgoszcz. What does the future of hydrogen technologies on the railways look like? Prof. Brzeżański claims that in the short term, one may be tempted to use hydrogen as fuel for diesel locomotives. This type of adaptation of existing propulsion systems can be realised relatively quickly and relatively inexpensively. In this case, excess hydrogen available in the Polish economy, mainly 'grey hydrogen', could be used. This would be a transitional stage, but one with great promotional potential for a new energy carrier such as hydrogen. Ultimately, a set of fuel cells powered by 'green hydrogen' from renewable energy sources could become the right source of power for railway vehicles.
A similar situation with the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier may apply to heavy transport, construction machinery and marine propulsion, because in these areas the use of electric energy storage in the form of electric batteries is currently technically unfeasible.
We are therefore, on the one hand, well on the way to lasting implementation of hydrogen technology in transport and, later, in industry, but it will be crucial in the coming years to coordinate action at many levels - funding, support for investment and exchange of knowledge between emerging centres of innovation such as hydrogen valleys. The autumn will also see the publication of the Polish Hydrogen Strategy, which is expected not only to set the direction of change, but also to facilitate grass-roots activities, which are currently being carried out in the dark, especially when it comes to legal regulations. However, the future definitely looks promising for hydrogen.