The future of aviation – Sustainable flight with hydrogen?

Germany needs alternatives to fossil fuels to realize the energy transition and climate targets 2050. Hydrogen (H2), especially its “green” production based on renewables, represents a promising pathway to significantly reduce CO2 emissions [Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie (BMWi), 2020]. Hydrogen thus plays a future role for a zero-carbon economy (Energy Transitions Commission, 2021).
The focus of a hydrogen economy has an effect on the aviation sector. Today, aviation is responsible for about 3% of global CO2 emissions (Nationaler Wasserstoffrat, 2021). In view of substantial future growth forecasts for air travel, a drastic reduction of the climate impact only seems possible via “revolutionary” approaches (BMWi, 2020). The H2 combustion does not cause CO2 emissions. Hydrogen-powered aviation is thus an option to decarbonize the sector (Nationaler Wasserstoffrat, 2021). According to the Clean Sky 2 and Fuel Cells & Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertakings (2020), H2, as a primary energy source for air propulsion, has the potential to reduce its climate impact by 50 to 90 percent.
The introduction of H2 implies extensive economic linkages from generation in the energy sector to utilization in the aviation sector. However, national renewable energy capacities are limited (BMWi, 2020), and supportive policy frameworks are fundamental as hydrogen energy has currently a much higher price compared to conventional (kerosene) jet fuel (Energy Transitions Commission, 2021).

1) Policy and Economic Perspective. How can we design a national hydrogen economy for Germany?

2) What are the economic impacts of hydrogen-powered aviation compared to the continuation of conventional aviation? Future scenarios 2050.

3) What policy actions can we take to support an H2 transition (switch), or to promote hydrogen production and utilization in aviation? What are the effects of government intervention in the hydrogen market?

4) Are there connections to the term “sustainability”?

Must-Read: The team should read the following before the kick-off:

Energy Transitions Commission (2021). Making the Hydrogen Economy Possible: Accelerating Clean Hydrogen in an Electrified Economy. The Making Mission Possible Series, Version 1.1, April 2021. Available at https://www.energy-transitions.org/publications/making-clean-hydrogen-possible/ (accessed 28.06.2021).

Nationaler Wasserstoffrat (2021). Wasserstoff für die Luftfahrt in Deutschland. Available at https://www.dena.de/fileadmin/dena/Dokumente/Pdf/NWR/NWR_Stellungnahme_Luftfahrt.pdf (accessed 28.06.2021).

Additional Literature:

Bae, J.H. and Cho, G.-L. (2010). A dynamic general equilibrium analysis on fostering a hydrogen economy in Korea. Energy Economics, 32, S57-S66.
Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie (2020)*. Die Nationale Wasserstoffstrategie. Juni 2020, Berlin. Available at https://www.bmwi.de/Redaktion/DE/Publikationen/Energie/die-nationale-wasserstoffstrategie.html (accessed 28.06.2021).

Clean Sky 2 and Fuel Cells & Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertakings (2020)*. Hydrogen-powered aviation. A fact-based study of hydrogen technology, economics, and climate impact by 2050. Available at https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/55fe3eb1-cc8a-11ea-adf7-01aa75ed71a1/language-en (accessed 28.06.2021).

Hansen, K, Mathiesen, B.V. and Skov, I.R. (2019). Full energy system transition towards 100% renewable energy in Germany in 2050. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 102, 1-13.
IRENA Coalition for Action (2021). Decarbonizing end-use sectors: Practical insights on green hydrogen, International Renewable Energy Agency, Abu Dhabi. Available at https://www.irena.org/publications/2021/May/Decarbonising-end-use-sectors-green-hydrogen (accessed 28.06.2021)

Scientific Partner:

Supporting researchers:

Dr Steven Gronau has been working at the Institute of Environmental Economics and World Trade at Leibniz Universität Hannover since 2019. His research focuses in particular on economic and ecological modelling applications. In various publications, he has used simulation models (e.g. economic equilibrium models) to analyse the effects of sectoral interventions on sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa. One example is evaluating a papyrus energy transition in rural Zambia as technology innovation and renewable energy source. He was recently awarded the Leibniz Young Investigator Grant for young researchers. The project funded by this grant investigates the refugee crisis and its impact in Zambia. He is also responsible for a junior research project in the SE²A (Sustainable and Energy Efficient Aviation) Cluster of Excellence. This research project analyses the economic effects of hydrogen in aviation.