Overline: RIFS Study
Headline: China's Hydrogen Strategy: Sustainable Generation Not A Priority

Hydrogen is widely viewed as a beacon of hope for the global energy transition. China is pursuing an ambitious agenda to strengthen its hydrogen sector. As a new RIFS Study of China's emerging hydrogen economy shows, its current efforts prioritize industrial development ahead of decarbonization and energy security concerns.

China is pursing a strategy aimed at expanding the supply of hydrogen from all sources
China is pursing a strategy aimed at expanding the supply of hydrogen from all sources. Shutterstock/GrAI

China accounts for around one-third of global hydrogen production. However, sustainable production is not currently a priority for the central government, which is pursing a strategy aimed at expanding the supply of hydrogen from all sources, including coal-based hydrogen production. China's near-term ambitions to promote green hydrogen, i.e. hydrogen produced from renewable energy sources, are modest compared to those of other major economies, according to the study by Xiaohan Gong (Chinese University of Hong Kong), Rainer Quitzow (Research Institute for Sustainability - Helmholtz Centre Potsdam (RIFS)) and Anatole Boute (Chinese University of Hong Kong). However, a number of large-scale green hydrogen production projects have been initiated at the regional level.

Policies aimed at promoting a hydrogen-based decarbonization of industry are only at a nascent stage. Similarly, China’s ambitions to promote hydrogen storage and transport are also at a relatively early stage of development and currently focus on promoting innovation and acquiring technological know-how.

Nevertheless, policy documents increasingly emphasize the potential of renewable hydrogen as a vehicle for stabilizing an electricity system based on variable renewable energy and supporting broader decarbonization efforts. They also increasingly highlight the need to transition to an exclusively renewable hydrogen supply in the future. According to the analysis, geopolitical considerations do not currently factor prominently in China’s approach to renewables-based hydrogen generation.

Gong, X., Quitzow, R., Boute, A. (2023): China’s Emerging Hydrogen Economy: Policies, Institutions, Actors. - RIFS Study, January 2023. https://publications.iass-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_6002649