Hydrogen: An Emerging Innovation in Canada's Renewable Energy Industry

Francis Campbell, Analyst, Research, Invest in Canada

street sign indicating electric and hydrogen stations ahead

The world is headed into an unprecedented energy transition, and Canada—with emerging industries like hydrogen and cleantech—is poised to lead that transition. This week at GasTech Virtual Summit, leaders in the global energy industry are gathering to discuss that transition and Canada will be on the centre stage. While the country has been a leader in the production of oil and gas for decades, innovation in industries like hydrogen will be essential to Canada’s energy leadership in the future.

Canada has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% (below 2005 levels) by 2030. In addition, the federal government is developing a plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Although this goal is ambitious, it presents a distinct opportunity for innovative Canadian industries to lead. As Canada navigates the energy transition, clean technologies must step up to the plate—and the hydrogen industry is appearing once again as a crucial component to achieve these emissions goals.

What is the hydrogen economy?

The notion of the hydrogen economy was first proposed in the 1970s, when carbon-based fossil fuels were to have been substituted by hydrogen. It imagined a system where the economy would rely primarily on hydrogen as the energy carrier, abolishing the use of fossil fuels, decreasing carbon dioxide emissions, and ensuring energy independence. The focal point for development was on the commercialization of consumer fuel cell vehicles and the creation of fuelling infrastructure. 

Now that the hydrogen economy concept is being applied in practice, this industry could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create highly skilled jobs, all while improving the air quality.

Canada’s hydrogen industry

The hydrogen economy concept has evolved in recent years. Canada has moved beyond the long-term commercialization of consumer fuel cell vehicles to focus on near-term developments where fuel cell products can be implemented using existing technology and simpler infrastructure—think long-distance commercial transportation, high-heat industries (metals manufacturing), and large-scale building heating.

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