Currently, En-ROADS only models hydrogen as a storage technology for balancing renewable energy variability from wind and solar. There are many other ways that hydrogen is used—for example, as a fuel for residential, commercial, industry, and transport end uses. Our modeling team is working on adding these end uses and we’ll notify our users when the update is released.

What is hydrogen?

Hydrogen is an energy carrier rather than a primary source of energy because it stores and transports energy generated from other sources, such as fossil fuels, wind and solar, and biomass. Today, the most common method for producing hydrogen is steam-methane reforming, which extracts hydrogen from natural gas using steam. Electrolysis, the process of splitting water using electricity, is becoming more technically feasible and can be done with renewable energy, avoiding the production of greenhouse gases.

When burned for heat and electricity, most fuels produce pollutant by-products, such as particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. Hydrogen, in contrast, produces mostly water as a by-product (however, it can also produce polluting nitrogen oxides (NOx) due to reactions with nitrogen in the air). How “clean” hydrogen is will depend on the production path used. When hydrogen is produced from low-carbon electricity and water, it could be a solution to reducing carbon emissions. On the other hand, producing hydrogen from fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases.

How is hydrogen for storage modeled in En-ROADS?

En-ROADS models the industrial production of hydrogen from electrolysis as an energy storage option capable of accommodating long-term energy storage needs. Electrolysis drives a chemical reaction that splits water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen when passing an electric current through water. The hydrogen released is captured and stored to be used when needed. 

By default in the simulator, the electricity used in this process comes from the electric power grid, which is supplied with a mix of renewable energy sources, fossil fuels, nuclear, bioenergy, and (if available) new zero-carbon energy.

Hydrogen as an energy storage technology

Hydrogen produced via electrolysis and used as energy storage has already been proved technologically feasible, but it faces significant barriers to scaling up. These barriers include the cost of hydrogen pipeline and infrastructure construction and safety concerns. In the advanced settings of the Renewables slider (click the 3 dots next to the slider’s name) you can simulate a breakthrough cost reduction in electrolysis for hydrogen and the year when this breakthrough occurs.

To learn more about hydrogen as a form of energy storage, the importance of energy storage, and which parameters you can test in En-ROADS, read these FAQs: