The United States’ Inflation Reduction Act represents a “turning point” when it comes to the economics of technologies such as renewables and hydrogen, according to Goldman Sachs.
During an interview with CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick on Tuesday, Michele DellaVigna — who is Goldman’s commodity equity business unit leader for the EMEA region — touched upon a number of issues related to the energy sector, noting that a shift could be underway.
“All of the progress in clean-tech technology, economics, that we’ve seen for the last two, three years, had been driven by higher oil, gas and coal prices,” he said. “That is what makes, comparatively, renewables and hydrogen more profitable.”
“The exception — and I think this is where there could be green shoot[s] — is the Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S.,” he added. He went on to describe the IRA as “really a turning point on the economics of a lot of these technologies, with really generous incentives.”
The IRA was signed into law by President Joe Biden in August. According to the Department of Energy, the IRA “represents a historic, $369 billion investment in the modernization of the American energy system.” Among other things, the broad bill includes a hydrogen production tax credit.
DellaVigna — who was speaking to CNBC on the sidelines of Goldman Sachs’ Carbonomics conference in London — said the IRA was “a great template.”
“It finally makes technologies like green hydrogen, local green battery production [and] carbon capture, profitable in large scale,” he added.
The use of hydrogen in the shift to a more sustainable future has become a big talking point in recent years.
Described by the International Energy Agency as a “versatile energy carrier,” hydrogen has a diverse range of applications and can be deployed in a wide range of industries.
It can be produced in a number of ways. One method includes electrolysis, with an electric current splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen.
If the electricity used in this process comes from a renewable source such as wind or solar then some call it “green” or “renewable” hydrogen.
The vast majority of hydrogen generation is still based on fossil fuels, but there is a huge amount of interest in the role green hydrogen could play going forward.
Another attendee at the Carbonomics event was Elizabeth Gaines, the ex-CEO of Fortescue Metals Group, which is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange and produces iron ore.
Gaines, who is now a non-executive director at Fortescue, told CNBC there was a “genuine acceptance that green hydrogen will have a significant role to play in the green energy transition.”
Fortescue is making moves in the sector via its subsidiary, Fortescue Future Industries, which is focusing on the generation of renewable electricity and green hydrogen, among other things.
Gaines argued that Australia was well-placed to make a mark in the years ahead. “Australia is in a fantastic position to be part of the energy transition,” she said.
“In the same way that iron ore has been a significant export market for Australia, green hydrogen [and] renewable energy can play a similar role in the future — the jobs, the skills that come with that.”
Hopes for hydrogen, but hurdles remain
Over the past few years, major economies and businesses have looked to tap into the emerging green hydrogen industry in a bid to decarbonize the way sectors integral to modern life operate.
During a roundtable discussion at the COP27 climate change summit in November, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz described green hydrogen as “one of the most important technologies for a climate-neutral world.”
“Green hydrogen is the key to decarbonizing our economies, especially for hard-to-electrify sectors such as steel production, the chemical industry, heavy shipping and aviation,” Scholz added, before acknowledging that a significant amount of work was needed for the sector to mature.
“Of course, green hydrogen is still an infant industry, its production is currently too cost-intensive compared to fossil fuels,” he said.
“There’s also a ‘chicken and egg’ dilemma of supply and demand where market actors block each other, waiting for the other to move.”