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Diverse notions of Energy Security in a Multi-polar World

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The concept of energy security has been at the front and centre of many important changes in international relations and international law since the 1970s. However, in the recent past, the speed of its evolution and the fleshing out of its scope and content has been quite dramatic. During this period, there has been remarkable flux in the patterns of global trading in energy products. In 2008–09, several key trends started to develop in the energy sector, triggered by the influence  of  two  new,  very  strong  factors:  the  global  financial  and  economic  crisis  and  the shale revolution in gas and oil production. The Energy Policy of the Trump Administration stands in contrast with that of the Obama Administration. The America First Energy Plan stated, inter alia, that “The Trump Administration is committed to energy policies that lower costs for hardworking Americans and maximize the use of American resources, freeing us from dependence on foreign oil.” The Plan called for removing the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the US rule, embracing the shale oil and gas revolution, commitment to clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, boosting domestic energy production, achieving energy independence from the OPEC cartel and any nations hostile to US interests, and responsible stewardship of the environment. Two years later, a White House Fact sheet stated that under President Trump, the US had been establishing energy dominance, abolishing the war on energy and advancing American energy. Specifically, it was pointed out that United States had become, amongst others,  (a) the largest crude oil producer in the world, (b) a net natural gas exporter for the first time since 1957 including exports of LNG to the EU at an all-time high in March 2019 , (c) crude oil exports nearly doubled in 2018, reaching a record average of 2 million barrels a day, (d) coal exports reached their highest level in five years in 2018 and (e) withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement and got “rid of costly Obama-era regulations like the Stream Protection Rule and the Clean Power Plan.” The George W Bush legacy was closer to the Obama approach. According to a Fact sheet on the same, President Bush had taken a reasoned, balanced approach to the serious challenges of energy security and climate change.

According to its White Paper of 2012 titled, “China’s Energy Policy” in 2011, the output of primary energy equaled 3.18 billion tons of standard coal, ranking first in the world. At present, nearly 50 percent of China’s total energy imports is from the Middle East. For the foreseeable future security of energy supplies will continue to remain a policy priority for Beijing. Under Xi Jinping, China has turned more ambitious in respect of its energy mix with considerable emphasis on new energy including through the Made in China 2025 policy and the Belt and Road connectivity initiative. It may be recalled that the ten year Made in China 2025 plan on promoting manufacturing was announced in May 2015 and specifically included energy saving cars and new energy cars among the ten key sectors. According to a MERICS Database made public in July 2019, two thirds of Chinese spending on completed BRI projects went into the energy sector, and already amounted to more than USD 50 billion. Renewable energy power-plants led the pack of completed, Chinese-funded energy projects with a total investment volume in excess of USD 20 billion. According to the 2019 Annual Report of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China  has  quickly  built  up  advanced  production  capacity  in  lithium-ion  batteries  and  established  control  over  a  substantial  portion  of  the  global  supply  chain,  exposing  the  United  States  to  potential  shortages  in  critical  materials,  battery  components,  and  batteries. Further, China is positioning itself to become a leader in nuclear  power  through  cultivating  future  nuclear  export  markets along the Belt and Road, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa,  and  attracting  advanced  nuclear  reactor  designers  to  build  prototypes  in  China. Finally, reference may also be made to China’s efforts at the Arctic region. Since 1999, China has organized a number of scientific expeditions in the Arctic, with its research vessel Xue Long (Snow Dragon) as the platform. In 2004, it built the Arctic Yellow River Station in Ny Alesund in the Spitsbergen Archipelago and by the end of 2017, China had carried out eight scientific expeditions in the Arctic Ocean, and conducted research for 14 years with the Yellow River Station as the base.

The position of the OPEC has also evolved. In a keynote address delivered by HE Abdalla Salem El-Badri, OPEC Secretary General, at the Chatham House Conference entitled “Middle East Energy 2008″ – Risk and Responsibility: The New Realities of Energy Supply – London, UK, 4 February 2008, he focused on the following characteristics: Energy security should be reciprocal;  universal, applying to rich and poor nations alike; focus on providing all consumers with modern energy services; apply to the entire supply chain; cover all foreseeable time-horizons; allow for the development and deployment of new technologies in a sustainable, economic and environmentally-sound manner; and benefit from enhanced dialogue and cooperation among stakeholders. A decade later, it is instructive to glance through the World Oil Outlook report 2019 launched on 5 November 2019 at Vienna, Austria. It states, inter alia, that demand for OPEC liquids is projected to increase to around 44.4 mb/d in 2040, up from 36.6 mb/d in 2018; global crude oil and condensate trade is estimated to remain relatively static at around 38 mb/d between 2018 and 2025, before increasing to around 42 mb/d by 2040; in the period to 2040, the required global oil sector investment is estimated at $10.6 trillion; and energy poverty remains a major global challenge, with almost one billion people still without access to electricity and three billion lacking access to clean fuels for cooking. The Aramco’s IPO is being watched with interest including for what it meant for energy security calculations especially of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The testy relationship between the US analysts and the OPEC markets remains even as the promise of shale gas fades away.

The Indian understanding of energy security encompasses four aspects, namely (i) availability of energy for all citizens, (ii) lifeline energy, (iii) supply that meets effective demand, and (iv) ability to withstand shocks and disruptions. The landmark India-US nuclear deal was intended to address the problem of energy deficit that had emerged as one of the primary constraints on accelerating India’s growth rate. According to a fact sheet of the Ministry of External Affairs of India of 27 June 2007, “Presently, only 3% of India’s energy needs are met from the nuclear sources. India plans to produce 20,000 MWe from the nuclear sector by 2020, an increase from the current 3,700 Mwe.” Full civil nuclear energy cooperation with the US was also expected to help India achieve energy security. Most recently, in his speech at 16th International Energy Forum Ministerial Meeting in New Delhi in early 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Given global uncertainties, India also needs energy security. My vision for India’s energy future has 4 pillars– energy access, energy efficiency, energy sustainability and energy security….the launch of the International Solar Alliance is a step towards fulfilling this commitment.” India had reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris Agreement and achieved some successes through its citizen participation on certain aspects of the fight against pollution. Recent news reports indicate that the Government of India is in the process of formulating a new energy policy. The highly reputed National Geographic assessed in September 2019 that “India has emerged as a global leader in renewable energy, and in fact it is investing more in them than it is in fossil fuels

The IEA defines energy security as the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price. At the mid 2019 G20 Osaka Summit, the leaders acknowledged “…the importance of global energy security as one of the guiding principles for the transformation of energy systems, including resilience, safety and development of infrastructure and undisrupted flow of energy from various sources, suppliers, and routes.” They also recognized the value of international cooperation on a wide range of energy-related issues including energy access, affordability and energy efficiency, and energy storage. The WTO has in a limited way addressed some aspects of energy security. In the WTO Panel report of September 2018 on European Union and its Member States — Certain Measures Relating to the Energy Sector, where the complainant was the Russian Federation, one of the points of contention was regarding the third-country certification measure in the national implementing laws of Croatia, Hungary and Lithuania. Both parties agreed that the measure, de jure, violates the national treatment obligation in Article XVII of the GATS by requiring a security of energy supply assessment prior to the certification of third-country transmission system operators, but not domestic ones. Controlling the South China Sea has major implications for energy security in that region. The strategic context affecting upstream development in the South China Sea is a rising China that is increasingly able and willing to assertively pursue its perceived sovereign rights to oil and gas resources. The decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the case brought by The Philippines has relevance in this regard. The centrality of ASEAN countries in the 21st century Maritime Silk Road initiative of China is testimony to this. How the regional grouping handles the on-going negotiations on the Code of Conduct for the SCS is going to determine the safety of sea lanes in this busy and sensitive area. The imperative for energy security in such a vulnerable strategic region as the Asia-Pacific is paramount for global stability and development. In this regard, the 2007 non-binding Declaration on East Asian energy security signed by the leaders of the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australia, People’s Republic of China, Republic of India, Japan, Republic of Korea and New Zealand, on the occasion of the Second East Asia Summit on 15 January 2007 in Cebu, Philippines called for: cleaner and lower emissions technologies, use of biofuels,  improving efficiency and conservation, reducing the costs of renewable and alternate energy sources through innovative financing schemes,  intensifying the search for new and renewable energy resources and technologies, stable energy supply through investments in regional energy infrastructure, recycling of oil revenues and profits for equity investments, strategic fuel stockpiling, clean use of coal and development of clean coal technologies and international environmental cooperation, regional or bilateral cooperation & assisting less developed countries in enhancing national capacity building.

In 2017, the EU produced around 45 % of its own energy, while 55 % was imported; the energy mix in the EU, was mainly made up by five different sources: petroleum products (including crude oil) (36%), natural gas (23%), solid fossil fuels (15%), renewable energy (14%) and nuclear energy (12%). The main imported energy product was petroleum products (including crude oil, which is the main component), accounting for almost two thirds of energy imports into the EU, followed by gas (26 %) and solid fossil fuels (8 %); almost two thirds of the extra-EU’s crude oil imports came from Russia (30 %), Norway (11 %), Iraq (8 %), Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia (both 7 %) & more than three quarters of the EU’s imports of natural gas came from Russia (40 %), Norway (26 %) and Algeria (11 %), while almost three quarters of solid fuel (mostly coal) imports originated from Russia (39 %), Colombia and United States (17 % each). Of all the international players, the EU has been the most progressive on climate change issues. Recently, the European Investment Bank announced that it would stop funding fossil fuel projects by the end of 2021. On its part, the European Parliament has urged all EU countries to commit to net zero GHG emissions by 2050. The Commission is expected to present in 2020 a comprehensive plan to reduce emissions towards 55% in a reasonable way by 2030.

In conclusion, it is observed that the period from 2000 to 2019 has been transformational in multiple ways in respect of the evolution of the emphasis between renewables and non-renewables in the energy mix reflective of domestic green politics the world over, especially in Asia. The dissonance amidst the principal actors of the energy architecture can be inferred from transition from Balance to Dominance in the case of US; Emphasis on Environment in the case of EU; taking the lead in global Supply of Lithium and Nuclear in the case of PRC, Four Pillars of Energy Future in the case of India, Reciprocal Dimension of Energy Security in the case of OPEC and the myriad of perspectives from Plurilateral and Multilateral Institutions. With the passage of time, since the energy crisis of 1970s, reconciliation of how major players view energy security warrants greater attention as we move ahead.

Dr. Sunod Jacob The Peninsula Foundation Former Legal Advisor, ICRC Former Associate Professor of Law, GD Goenka University The author can be reached at sunod.jacob[at]thepeninsula.org.in

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Oil and the new world order: China, Iran and Eurasia

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The world oil market will undergo a fundamental change in the future. Choosing petrodollars or oil wars is no longer a question that can be answered. With the Strategic Agreement on the Comprehensive Economic and Security Partnership between China and Iran officially signed by the Foreign Ministers of both countries in Tehran on March 27, 2021, the petrodollar theorem is broken and the empire built by the US dollar is cracked.

This is because the petrodollar has not brought substantial economic development to the oil-producing countries in the Middle East during over half a century of linkage to the US dollar.

The Middle East countries generally have not their own industrial systems. The national economies are heavily dependent on oil exports and imports of cereals and industrial products. The national finances are driven by the US dollar and the financial system that follows it.

If the Middle East countries wanted to escape the control of the dollar, they should face the threat of war from the United States and its allies – things we have seen over and over again. Just think of Saddam Hussein being supported when he was fighting Iran and later being Public Enemy No. 1 when he started trading oil in euros.

The West has always wanted the Middle East to be an oil ‘sacred cow’ and has not enabled it to develop its own modern industrial system: the lack of progress in the Middle East was intended as long-term blackmail.

In the Western system of civilisation based on exchange of views and competition, the West is concerned that Iran and the entire Middle East may once again restore the former glory and hegemony of the Persian, Arab and Ottoman empires.

China is facing the exploitation of the global oil market and the threat of its supply disruption. Relying on industrial, financial, and military strength, Europe and the United States control the oil production capital, trade markets, dollar settlements, and global waterways that make up the entire petrodollar world order, differentiating China and the Middle East and dividing the world on the basis of the well-known considerations. You either choose the dollar or you choose war – and the dollar has long been suffering.

Just as in ancient times nomadic tribes blocked the Silk Road and monopolised trade between East and West, Europe and the United States are holding back and halting cooperation and development of the whole of Asia and the rest of the planet. Centuries ago, it was a prairie cavalry, bows, arrows and scimitars: today it is a navy ship and a financial system denominated in dollars.

Therefore, China and Iran, as well as the entire Middle East, are currently looking for ways to avoid middlemen and intermediaries and make the difference. If there is another strong power that can provide military security and at the same time offer sufficient funds and industrial products, the whole Middle East oil can be freed from the dominance of the dollar and can trade directly to meet demand, and even introduce new modern industrial systems.

Keeping oil away from the US dollar and wars and using oil for cooperation, mutual assistance and common development is the inner voice of the entire Middle East and developing countries: a power that together cannot be ignored in the world.

The former Soviet Union had hoped to use that power and strength to improve its system. However, it overemphasised its own geostrategic and paracolonial interests – turning itself into a social-imperialist superpower competing with the White House. Moreover, the USSR lacked a cooperative and shared mechanism to strengthen its alliances, and eventually its own cronies began to rebel as early as the 1960s.

More importantly – although the Soviet Union at the time could provide military security guarantees for allied countries – it was difficult for it to provide economic guarantees and markets, although the Soviet Union itself was a major oil exporter. The natural competitive relationship between the Soviet Union and the Middle East, as well as the Soviet Union’s weak industrial capacity, eventually led to the disintegration of the whole system, starting with the defection of Sadat’s Egypt in 1972. Hence the world reverted to the unipolarised dollar governance once the Soviet katekon collapsed nineteen years later.

With the development and rise of its economy, however, now China has also begun to enter the world scene and needs to establish its own new world order, after being treated as a trading post by Britain in the 19th century, later divided into zones of influence by the West and Japan, and then quarantined by the United States after the Second World War.

Unlike the US and Soviet world order, China’s proposal is not a paracolonial project based on its own national interests, nor is it an old-fashioned “African globalisation” plan based on multinationals, and it is certainly not an ideological export.

For years, there has been talk of Socialism with Chinese characteristics and certainly not of attempts to impose China’s Marxism on the rest of the world, as was the case with Russia. China, instead, wishes to have a new international economic order characterised by cooperation, mutual assistance and common development.

Unlike the Western civilisation based on rivalry and competition, the Eastern civilisation, which pays more attention to harmony without differences and to coordinated development, is trying to establish a new world economic order with a completely different model from those that wrote history in blood.

Reverting to the previous treaty, between the US dollar and the war, China has offered Iran and even the world a third choice. China seems increasingly willing to exist as a service provider. This seems to be more useful for China, first of all to solve its own problems and not to get involved in endless international disputes.

It can thus be more accepted by all countries around the world and unite more States to break the joint encirclement of the “democratic” and liberal imperialism of Europe and the United States.

Consequently, China and Iran – whose origins date back almost to the same period – met at a critical moment in history. According to the Strategic Agreement on Comprehensive Economic and Security Partnership between China and Iran, China will invest up to 400 billion dollars in dozens of oil fields in Iran over the next 25 years, as well as in banking, telecommunications, ports, railways, healthcare, 5G networks, GPS, etc.

China will help Iran build the entire modern industrial system. At the same time, it will receive a heavily discounted and long-term stable supply of Iranian oil. The Sino-Iranian partnership will lay the foundations for a proposed new world order, with great respect for Eastern values, not based on some failed, decadent and increasingly radicalising principles.

Faced with the value restraint and the pressure of sanctions from the United States and Europe, China is seeking to unite the European third Rome, Indo-European Iran, the second Rome and the five Central Asian countries to create a powerful geoeconomic counterpart in the hinterland of Eurasia.

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The stages and choices of energy production from hydrogen

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There are three main ways to use hydrogen energy:

1) internal combustion;

2) conversion to electricity using a fuel cell;

3) nuclear fusion.

The basic principle of a hydrogen internal combustion engine is the same as that of a gasoline or diesel internal combustion engine. The hydrogen internal combustion engine is a slightly modified version of the traditional gasoline internal combustion engine. Hydrogen internal combustion burns hydrogen directly without using other fuels or producing exhaust water vapour.

Hydrogen internal combustion engines do not require any expensive special environment or catalysts to fully do the job – hence there are no problems of excessive costs. Many successfully developed hydrogen internal combustion engines are hybrid, meaning they can use liquid hydrogen or gasoline as fuel.

The hydrogen internal combustion engine thus becomes a good transition product. For example, if you cannot reach your destination after refuelling, but you find a hydrogen refuelling station, you can use hydrogen as fuel. Or you can use liquid hydrogen first and then a regular refuelling station. Therefore, people will not be afraid of using hydrogen-powered vehicles when hydrogen refuelling stations are not yet widespread.

The hydrogen internal combustion engine has a small ignition energy; it is easy to achieve combustion – hence better fuel saving can be achieved under wider working conditions.

The application of hydrogen energy is mainly achieved through fuel cells. The safest and most efficient way to use it is to convert hydrogen energy into electricity through such cells.

The basic principle of hydrogen fuel cell power generation is the reverse reaction of electrolysis of water, hydrogen and oxygen supplied to the cathode and anode, respectively. The hydrogen spreading – after the electrolyte reaction – makes the emitted electrons reach the anode through the cathode by means of an external load.

The main difference between the hydrogen fuel cell and the ordinary battery is that the latter is an energy storage device that stores electrical energy and releases it when needed, while the hydrogen fuel cell is strictly a power generation device, like a power plant.

The same as an electrochemical power generation device that directly converts chemical energy into electrical energy. The use of hydrogen fuel cell to generate electricity, directly converts the combustion chemical energy into electrical energy without combustion.

The energy conversion rate can reach 60% to 80% and has a low pollution rate. The device can be large or small, and it is very flexible. Basically, hydrogen combustion batteries work differently from internal combustion engines: hydrogen combustion batteries generate electricity through chemical reactions to propel cars, while internal combustion engines use heat to drive cars.

Because the fuel cell vehicle does not entail combustion in the process, there is no mechanical loss or corrosion. The electricity generated by the hydrogen combustion battery can be used directly to drive the four wheels of the vehicle, thus leaving out the mechanical transmission device.

The countries that are developing research are aware that the hydrogen combustion engine battery will put an end to pollution. Technology research and development have already successfully produced hydrogen cell vehicles: the cutting-edge car-prucing industries include GM, Ford, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and other major international companies.

In the case of nuclear fusion, the combination of hydrogen nuclei (deuterium and tritium) into heavier nuclei (helium) releases huge amounts of energy.

Thermonuclear reactions, or radical changes in atomic nuclei, are currently very promising new energy sources. The hydrogen nuclei involved in the nuclear reaction, such as hydrogen, deuterium, fluorine, lithium, iridium (obtained particularly from meteorites fallen on our planet), etc., obtain the necessary kinetic energy from thermal motion and cause the fusion reaction.

The thermonuclear reaction itself behind the hydrogen bomb explosion, which can produce a large amount of heat in an instant, cannot yet be used for peaceful purposes. Under specific conditions, however, the thermonuclear reaction can achieve a controlled thermonuclear reaction. This is an important aspect for experimental research. The controlled thermonuclear reaction is based on the fusion reactor. Once a fusion reactor is successful, it can provide mankind with the cleanest and most inexhaustible source of energy.

The feasibility of a larger controlled nuclear fusion reactor is tokamak. Tokamak is a toroidal-shaped device that uses a powerful magnetic field to confine plasma. Tokamak is one of several types of magnetic confinement devices developed to produce controlled thermonuclear fusion energy. As of 2021, it is the leading candidate for a fusion reactor.

The name tokamak comes from Russian (toroidal’naja kamera s magnitnymi katuškami: toroidal chamber with magnetic coils). Its magnetic configuration is the result of research conducted in 1950 by Soviet scientists Andrei Dmitrievič Sakharov (1921-1989) and Igor’ Evgen’evič Tamm (1895-1971), although the name dates back more precisely to 1957.

At the centre of tokamak there is a ring-shaped vacuum chamber with coils wound outside. When energized, a huge spiral magnetic field is generated inside the tokamak, which heats the plasma inside to a very high temperature, which achieves the purpose of nuclear fusion.

Energy, resources and environmental problems urgently need hydrogen energy to solve the environmental crisis, but the preparation of hydrogen energy is not yet mature, and most of the research on hydrogen storage materials is still in the exploratory laboratory stage. Hydrogen energy production should also focus on the “biological” production of hydrogen.

Other methods of hydrogen production are unsustainable and do not meet scientific development requirements. Within biological production, microbial production requires an organic combination of genetic engineering and chemical engineering so that existing technology can be fully used to develop hydrogen-producing organisms that meet requirements as soon as possible. Hydrogen production from biomass requires continuous improvement and a vigorous promotion of technology. It is a difficult process.

Hydrogen storage focused on the discovery of new aspects of materials or their preparation is not yet at large-scale industrial level. Considering different hydrogen storage mechanisms, and the material to be used, also needs further study.

Furthermore, each hydrogen storage material has its own advantages and disadvantages, and most storage material properties have the characteristics that relate to adductivity and properties of a single, more commonly known material.

It is therefore believed that efforts should be focused on the development of a composite hydrogen storage material, which integrates the storage advantages of multiple individual materials, along the lines of greater future efforts.

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The advantages of hydrogen and Israel’s warnings

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Hydrogen is the most common element in nature. It is estimated to make up 75% of the mass of the universe. Except for that contained in air, it is primarily stored in water in the form of a compound, and water is the most widely distributed substance on earth.

Hydrogen has the best thermal conductivity of all gases – i.e. ten times higher than most of them – and it is therefore an excellent heat transfer carrier in the energy industry.

Hydrogen has good combustion performance, rapid ignition, and has a wide fuel range when mixed with air. It has a high ignition point and rapid combustion rate.

Except for nuclear fuels, the calorific value of hydrogen is the highest among all fossil and chemical fuels, as well as biofuels, reaching 142.35 kJ/kg. The calorie per kilogram of hydrogen burned is about three times that of gasoline and 3.9 times that of alcohol, as well as 4.5 times that of coke.

Hydrogen has the lightest weight of all elements. It can appear as gas, liquid, or solid metal hydride, which can adapt to different storage and transport needs and to various application environments.

Burning hydrogen is cleaner than other fuels –  besides generating small amounts of water – and does not produce hydrogen azide as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide (harmful to the environment), hydrocarbons, lead compounds and dust particles, etc. A small amount of hydrogen nitride will not pollute the environment after proper treatment, and the water produced by combustion can continue to produce hydrogen and be reused repeatedly.

Extensive use practices show that hydrogen has a record of safe use. There were 145 hydrogen-related accidents in the United States between 1967 and 1977, all of which occurred in petroleum refining, the chlor-alkali industry, or nuclear power plants, and did not really involve energy applications.

Experience in the use of hydrogen shows that common hydrogen accidents can be summarized as follows: undetected leaks; safety valve failure; emptying system failure; broken pipes, tubes or containers; property damage; poor replacement; air or oxygen and other impurities left in the system; too high hydrogen discharge rate; possible damage of pipe and tube joints or bellows; accidents or tipping possibly occurring during the hydrogen transmission process.

These accidents require two additional conditions to cause a fire: one is the source of the fire and the other is the fact that the mixture of hydrogen and air or oxygen must be within the limits of the possibility of fires or violent earthquakes in the local area.

Under these two conditions, an accident cannot be caused if proper safety measures are established. In fact, with rigorous management and careful implementation of operating procedures, most accidents do not theoretically occur.

The development of hydrogen energy is triggering a profound energy revolution and could become the main source of energy in the 21st century.

The United States, Europe, Japan, and other developed countries have formulated long-term hydrogen energy development strategies from the perspective of national sustainable development and security strategies.

Israel, however, makes warning and calls for caution.

While the use of hydrogen allows for the widespread penetration of renewable energy, particularly solar and wind energy – which, due to storage difficulties, are less available than demand – Israeli experts say that, despite its many advantages, there are also disadvantages and barriers to integrating green hydrogen into industry, including high production costs and high upfront investment in infrastructure.

According to the Samuel Neaman Institute’s Energy Forum report (April 11, 2021; authors Professors Gershon Grossman and Naama Shapira), Israel is 7-10 years behind the world in producing energy from clean hydrogen.

Prof. Gideon Friedman, actingchief scientist and Director of Research and Development at the Ministry of Energy, explains why: “Israel has a small industry that is responsible for only 10% of greenhouse gas emissions – unlike the world where they are usually 20% – and therefore the problems of emissions in industry are a little less acute in the country.”

At a forum held prior to the report’s presentation, senior officials and energy experts highlighted the problematic nature of integrating clean hydrogen into industry in Israel.

Dr. Yossi Shavit, Head of the cyber unit in industry at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, outlined the risks inherent in hydrogen production, maintenance and transportation, including the fact that it is a colourless and odourless gas that makes it difficult to detect a leak. According to Dr. Shavit, hydrogen is a hazardous substance that has even been defined as such in a new regulation on cyber issues published in 2020.

Dr. Shlomo Wald, former chief scientist at the Ministry of Infrastructure, argued that in the future hydrogen would be used mainly for transportation, along with electricity.

Prof. Lior Elbaz of Bar-Ilan University said that one of the most important things is the lack of laws: “There is no specific regulation for hydrogen in Israel, but it is considered a dangerous substance. In order for hydrogen to be used for storage and transportation, there needs to be a serious set of laws that constitute a bottleneck in our learning curve.” “Israel has something to offer in innovation in the field, but government support will still be needed in this regard – as done in all countries – and approximately a trillion dollars in the field of hydrogen is expected to be invested in the next decade.”

Although the discussion was mainly about Israel’s delay in integrating clean hydrogen into the industry, it has emerged that Sonol (Israel’s fuel supplier ranking third in the country’s gas station chain) is leading a project, together with the Ministry of Transport, to establish Israel’s first hydrogen refuelling station. “We believe there will be hydrogen transportation in Israel for trucks and buses,” said Dr. Amichai Baram, Vice President of operations at Sonol. “Hydrogen-powered vehicles for the country – albeit not really cheap in the initial phase – and regulations promoted in the field, both for gas stations and vehicles.”

Renewables account for only 6% of Israel’s energy sources and, according to the latest plans published by the Ministry of Energy and adopted by the government, the target for 2030 is 30%.

This is an ambitious goal compared to reality, and also far from the goal of the rest of the countries in the world that aim at energy reset by 2050.

The authors of the aforementioned report emphasize that fully using the clean hydrogen potential is key to achieving a higher growth target for Israel.

According to recommendations, the State should critically examine the issue in accordance with Israel’s unique conditions and formulate a strategy for the optimal integration of hydrogen into the energy economy.

Furthermore, it must support implementation, both through appropriate regulations and through the promotion of cooperation with other countries and global companies, as well as through investment in infrastructure, and in research and development, industry and in collaboration with the academic world.

There are countries in Europe or the Middle East that have already started green energy production projects, and finally it was recommended to work to develop Israeli innovations in the field, in collaboration with the Innovation Authority and the Ministry of Energy.

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