Targets, Limits, Pledges, Bans: Enforcing the Transition to Sustainable Energy

By Trevor Brown on October 18, 2018

In the last 12 months …

California passed a law mandating 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045; then its governor announced that the state’s entire energy system – not just its electricity – would be carbon-neutral by 2045. The Hydrogen Council announced its “goal of decarbonizing 100% of hydrogen fuel used in transport by 2030.” The International Maritime Organization set targets for the global shipping sector to “reduce the total annual GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050,” and completely “phase them out, as soon as possible in this century,” and these targets were swiftly endorsed by the International Chamber of Shipping.

Regulators and self-regulating organizations around the world are enforcing systemic decarbonization and accelerating the transition to a hydrogen economy. Even President Trump’s Congress passed a law providing tax credits for carbon sequestration, and Exxon is funding Republican-led efforts to pass a carbon tax.

Attracting the most emphatic headlines, however, were the laws to phase out the fossil-fueled internal combustion engine. This regulatory trend began with Volkswagen’s diesel emissions cheating scandal but the latest announcements include gasoline, as well, and are often described as bans of the internal combustion engine. These aren’t in force yet but already they are driving the transition to battery and fuel cell electric vehicles by forcing automakers and fuel suppliers to rethink their product offerings and delivery infrastructure. Often politically unfeasible, this mixture of limits, incentives, and targets started at city and state levels but is now spreading through national legislatures.

More than nine countries and a dozen cities or states have announced what the media has called “bans” in the last few years … Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City said they would remove diesel cars and vans by 2025. Norway will phase out conventional cars by 2025, followed by France and the United Kingdom in 2040 and 2050, respectively …

[These are] actually restrictions on the sales of new diesel vehicles, along with financial incentives or penalties to accelerate sales of electric and alternative-fuel vehicles in the coming years … Norway, where 52% of new car sales were electric in 2017, gifts EV buyers thousands of dollars in perks such as free or subsidized parking, tolls, and charging, as well as generous tax breaks. In the UK, where buyers also get tax breaks for clean vehicles, London is expanding an “ultra low emission zone,” imposing a £12.50 ($16.39) daily fee for cars deemed too polluting (generally conventional vehicles registered after 2005). These standards will go into effect next April.
Quartz, Nine countries say they’ll ban internal combustion engines. So far, it’s just words, 08/07/2018

South Korean legislation supports the same aims but does so by directing government spending, in partnership with companies like Hyundai, to turn hydrogen fuel cells into a national industry. As we wrote in July, “by 2022, 2.6 trillion won [USD$2.3 billion] will be invested in hydrogen car production facilities, hydrogen bus production, hydrogen storage containers for buses, and stack plant expansion … The South Korean initiative will outstrip both Japan and California in financial support for FCV market development.”

This South Korean industry will still rely upon imported fuel, of course, but that’s what allows Australian project developers to start making plans to export enough ammonia to meet this demand – estimated to be about 475,000 tons of carbon-free hydrogen per year.

The other big target for green ammonia exports is Japan, where the Basic Hydrogen Strategy, signed into law by Prime Minister Abe in December 2017, specifically calls for “CO2-free ammonia” to come into use “by the mid-2020s.”

We have yet to report on one of the most important new laws, announced in June 2018 by France’s Minister of Ecological Transition, Nicolas Hulot. The Plan Hydrogéne mandates “10% decarbonated hydrogen in industrial hydrogen by 2023” increasing to “between 20 to 40% by 2028.” Given that new hydrogen production facilities take some years to plan, design, permit, and construct, this means that ammonia producers in France must decarbonize, albeit incrementally, starting immediately.

Crucially, the Plan Hydrogéne also calls for “an H2 traceability system” to be implemented by 2020, which provides the fundamental underpinning for market credibility that leads to premium prices becoming viable for low-carbon ammonia.

Hulot resigned from the French government on live radio in August 2018, reportedly in frustration at the power of lobby groups. This week, a group of 135 députés of the French parliament, from across the political spectrum announced that they would ensure that the 2019 budget “provides the €100 million announced as part of the hydrogen plan,” because “we need to make politics ecological rather than politicising ecology.”

Ammonia Energy reporting on this topic since last year

A year in review

To mark the second anniversary of Ammonia Energy, we are reviewing the most important stories from the last 12 months. This “top ten” list spans two areas: five are significant advances that build on activities that were already underway in 2017, and five are new developments that emerged decisively this year.

Significant advances:

New developments: