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Towards a Discussion on Renewable Energy Sources and the Nuclear Energy Sector

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Is Truth Born out of Dispute?

The debate has raged across the world over the past few years (and not only in the expert community) as to the priorities for energy development at the national, regional and global levels. Moreover, the West has extended this discussion beyond engineers, economists, energy sector specialists and investors to form an entire expert movement that conveys a particular opinion to the society at large and then influences governmental policies. Developing countries present a somewhat different picture, where governments enjoy greater independence from public opinion in their decision-making, although the discussions are no less heated, nevertheless. These discussions have already created stable stereotypes associated with supporters of a particular mode of energy sector development: support for renewable energy sources (RES) and distributed energy is the province of liberals, while (centrally managed) traditional energy is the pet project of the conservatives[1].

Recently, the debates between supporters and opponents of renewable energy sources in the media and on the internet have reached an unprecedented level against the backdrop of major power supply problems caused by the abnormal cold spells in Europe and the United States. For instance, the Russian media actively criticizes the RES-based energy policies of the European Union and the United States for bringing about dire consequences in terms of energy supply (which is in fact not the case).

Nuclear energy is another butt of long-standing criticism. Public opinion in Western Europe demands that politicians abandon nuclear power in favour of renewable energy sources. This pressure has resulted in government and inter-governmental programmes geared primarily towards developing solar and wind power and the use of hydrogen.

Most surprisingly, supporters of both sides frequently miss the essence of the debate: they fail to ask why the authorities sometimes plump for renewable energy sources, while in other cases they choose oil, gas, or nuclear power plants. As a result, we often witness experts complaining about the low share of renewable energy sources in Russia’s energy balance compared to the high rates seen in European countries. Russia is thus seen to be lagging behind, having missed opportunities to develop the renewable energy sector. The problem, however, lies elsewhere: renewable energy sources do indeed make it possible to radically reduce the environmental footprint. However, if the idea behind developing the national energy sector is to solve environmental and climate problems, for example, by achieving carbon-free energy supply by a certain date, as many developed countries, as well as China, have done, then it is necessary to develop renewable energy sources (now, pay attention!) in combination with other low-carbon types of energy: nuclear energy and natural gas. Let us stress once again that this combination does not at all contradict the ideology and essence of “Energy 4.0” or the “energy transition.”

The Energy Sector and Economic Development

Renewable energy sources have proved stable and reliable during the COVID-19 crisis and, as expected, every “respectable” forecast predicts stable growth of varying intensity[2].

Renewable energy sources will cover 80 per cent of the increase in global demand for power in the next decade, and are expected to surpass coal as the principal source of energy by 2025. The highest growth will take place in China, where renewable power generation is predicted to increase by nearly 1500 TWh by 2030, which equals the total power generation of France, Germany and Italy combined.

In the next decade, solar and wind power plants will replace coal as the investment priority in building new power generation facilities. Solar power plants (SPP) will be constructed with greater intensity compared to other generation facilities due to the short construction times, low capital costs and the opportunities they offer to reduce environmental pollution. As the solar energy sector develops, secure supply chains and land for building SPPs will become critical factors. At the same time, direct support from the state will no longer be needed in most cases, although auxiliary support measures for stabilizing financial balances will still play a significant role in accelerating the construction of new capacities and reducing the costs of implementing new solar power projects.

In 2010–2019, the average costs of building solar power plants fell by 80 per cent. Additionally, solar power plants enjoy some form of governmental support in over 130 countries. This support has made cheap financing for solar power possible, which has played an important part in achieving record low prices.

The use of wind power is also expected to grow significantly. The average global cost of generating this kind of power has fallen by approximately 40 per cent over the past decade. Wind power enjoys governmental support in about 130 states, over 70 of which intend to develop shelf projects. Improved technologies and preferential financing terms will make it possible to reduce the costs of offshore wind energy to around USD 50 per megawatt/hour (MWh) in the next five years, which is roughly half the cost of recently constructed wind farms.

The use of nuclear power has continued to grow around the world, thanks to the completion of the first units of the EPR and AP1000 in China in 2018. The first unit of the Hualong-1 reactor is slated to be put into operation by the end of 2020.

Nuclear energy accounted for approximately 10 per cent of power generation in 2019 and was the second largest source of low-emission energy around the world (after hydropower). Nuclear energy has also contributed to the reliability of energy supplies: most reactors continued to operate throughout the first wave of the pandemic, despite demand being lower than usual. NPPs made it possible to ensure a certain flexibility of power grids and reduce the dependence of some states on imported fossil fuels.

Nuclear power generation is expected to return to pre-crisis levels by 2023 as demand recovers. Depending on the development scenarios, it is forecast to grow by 15–30 per cent before the end of 2030, although its share in the energy balance will decrease somewhat against the backdrop of various trends manifesting in two groups of states. In 2019–2030, developing states will increase NPP power generation by two thirds, which will bring its share in the total power production to 6 per cent. In early 2020, NPPs with total capacity of 42 GW (out of 62 GW) were being constructed. In 2030, nuclear power capacity will increase from 110 GW to 180 GW. China is on track to becoming the leader in nuclear power by 2030, ahead of the United States and the European Union. As of early 2020, China operated 48 nuclear reactors and was building 11 more. China is one of the few states that, under the Paris Climate Accords, included both nuclear power generation and renewable energy sources in its national programme for reducing emissions. The NPP development programmes that are being implemented in Russia, India and the Middle East could also contribute to increasing the global significance of nuclear energy.

Nuclear energy was the largest source of power in developed economies in 2019, but its generation is expected to drop by 10 per cent in 2019–2030 due to reactors aging and the restrictions imposed on new construction projects. Within the next decade, over 70 GW will be decommissioned at the NPPs currently in operation. Extending their service life may provide about 120 GW that otherwise would be shut down by 2030. By early 2020, about 20 GW of new NPP capacities had been built in Finland, France, Japan, South Korea, Slovakia, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. Otherwise, the projected additional capacities in developed economies is limited.

By 2030, total NPP capacity in the European Union will have dropped by 20 per cent. The biggest drops will be seen in Germany (which plans to fully decommission its NPPs by 2022), Belgium, Spain and France. By 2030, the installed nuclear capacity in the United States will have declined by 10 per cent, despite the fact that construction has been completed on two AP 1000 reactors and that five states now offer livelihood loans to companies with zero emissions. In Japan, the total installed capacity of its NPPS will drop from GW 33 in 2019 to GW in 2030. Even those countries that are interested in developing nuclear energy are running the risk of soon abandoning it due to extremely complicated market conditions and the risks connected with new capital investment. This development is highly probable, despite the possibility of nuclear energy being declared “clean” and despite NPPs being the most economically efficient low-emission power source.

Overall, global investment in renewable energy sources and nuclear power will rebound to pre-crisis levels in 2021, and is expected to grow steadily to USD 420 bn by 2030. In the next decade, renewable energy sources and nuclear energy will account for up to 80 per cent of all investments in energy generation.

Features of Nuclear Energy Development in Russia and Around the World

Nuclear energy is a technologically proven source of electric power that has significant potential to reduce carbon emissions. It has a large number of unique features that make it a viable option for many governments throughout the world. For example, one of the advantages of nuclear energy, besides it having zero carbon emissions, is that it is manageable: it does not depend on weather conditions, which makes it compatible with renewable energy sources. Additionally, nuclear energy generates more power than other zero-carbon energy sources per unit of area (facilities require less space).

However, nuclear energy technologies are capital intensive. Capital costs may account for up to 80 per cent of the energy costs of a new nuclear power plant. Therefore, reducing the cost of power plant construction (including equipment, building materials and labour) are of fundamental importance for making nuclear energy competitive.

In addition to the high capital costs, nuclear energy has other problems—possible construction time and budget overruns and the uncertainty of energy prices throughout the life cycle of nuclear power plants in an era of increasingly cheap renewable energy sources and advances in energy storage technologies. This has prompted consumers and other interested actors (from taxpayers to national governments) to reassess their standing on NPPs. Additionally, the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011 sparked political and social debates on nuclear power in some markets.

At the same time, according to the Energy Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, even though some countries abandoned the development of nuclear energy in favour of using renewable energy sources, global power generation at NPPs will increase by 2040.

Some experts believe it is desirable, reasonable and even necessary to combine nuclear energy with renewable energy sources to achieve the global carbon-free development goal. The goals set by international treaties to reduce environmental impact may prove unattainable if NPPs are abolished, despite the growing economy, population and emerging technological development trends. Additionally, some experts consider the projects to combine the use of NPPs (base-load demand) and renewable energy sources (variable duty) of particular interest.

The new developments in nuclear energy, such as building and operating mini nuclear reactors, appear highly promising in terms of long-term development. Several countries are working on such reactors. Russia, the United States and France have been particularly successful in this area. These technologies are particularly interesting for small states and isolated and remote regions (Russia is already building such a mini NPP in Yakutia).

Given Russia’s leadership in nuclear technologies, nuclear energy could play a leading role in the low-carbon technological restructuring of Russia’s energy sector. The transition to the new generation of VVER-TOI light-water reactors has already begun, and the use of fast nuclear reactors will develop at an increasingly rapid pace, which will in turn speed up the nuclear sector’s changeover, first to the combined fuel cycle, and then to the closed cycle. Additionally, new types of NPPs will boast improved safety and efficiency and lower capital intensity. Therefore, the share of capital investment in VVER-TOI power units will be reduced by 15 per cent compared to their current costs, and the target specifications for fast reactors will be 15 per cent lower still compared to VVER-TOI. Transitioning to the closed nuclear fuel cycle will also make it possible to halve the costs of generating power at NPPs.

The introduction of fees for greenhouse gas emissions, even at RUB 600 (approximately USD 8) per tonne of СО2, significantly improves the competitive edge of carbon-free energy technologies and will lead to a 10-per cent increase in NPP capacity by 2050 compared to the base case, which does not include emissions payments. This is about 31% of the installed capacities of Russia’s UES.

With two thirds of its territory made up of isolated or remote regions with power supply problems, Russia has a huge area for applying new nuclear energy technologies. It is perfectly clear that a large country with a low population density cannot resolve the problem in developing its energy sector through large-scale network construction. Small-capacity nuclear power plants constitute one of the most realistic ways out of this situation.

Conclusions

Our analysis demonstrates that renewable energy sources are the most attractive energy generation technologies for ensuring sustainable carbon-free development around the world. At the same time, there are a number of technological and economic problems that can only be overcome by adopting a systemic approach using additional technologies, radically new approaches to managing and regulating energy markets, and complex energy systems (including in the course of transitioning from primarily centralized to primarily distributed systems). This, in turn, requires additional expenditures on developing the energy infrastructure. Under the currently emerging conditions, nuclear energy has rather good development prospects in both developed and developing states. It can serve as a supplement to renewable energy. As one of the leaders in nuclear energy, Russia has several competitive advantages in the face of the tougher requirements and commitments in environmental protection and countering climate change.

1. For instance, the difference in the U.S. energy policy of the Republicans (Donald Trump) and the Democrats (Barack Obama, Joe Biden).

2. World Energy Outlook. International Energy Agency. Paris. 2020

From our partner RIAC

Ph.D. in Technical Sciences, Deputy Director of the Energy Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Deputy Director of the Energy Industry Institute of the National Research University Higher School of Economics

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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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