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ABSTRACT. Renewable hydrogen is enjoying increasing political and business momentum. But taking full advantage of it will require scaling technologies, reducing costs, deploying enabling infrastructure, and defining appropriate policies and market structures. Since renewable hydrogen could be an important piece in the carbon-free energy puzzle, it is relevant to explore its geopolitical implications as it enables policy makers to navigate a new energy world. Key variables to consider are technology, infrastructure, environment, finance, global markets, and geopolitics. Focusing on renewable hydrogen, this paper provides a methodology to frame these variables, address the challenges they cause, and the potential opportunities. If adopted at scale, we believe the dynamics of future hydrogen markets would be similar to today’s natural gas markets – with the potential for similar geopolitical dynamics. Our analysis shows that countries are likely to assume specific roles in future renewable hydrogen systems based on their resource endowment and infrastructure potential. As a result, future geopolitical realities of resource-poor countries in Europe and South-East Asia might look very similar to the present realities, as energy import dependency might continue. We may also witness an emergence of new export champions, such as Australia and North Africa.

Keywords: renewable hydrogen; energy conflicts; geopolitics of energy; decarbonization; natural gas; energy infrastructure

How to cite: Pflugmann, F., and De Blasio, N. (2020). “The Geopolitics of Renewable Hydrogen in Low-Carbon Energy Markets,” Geopolitics, History, and International Relations 12(1): 9–44. doi:10.22381/GHIR12120201

Received 5 March 2020 • Received in revised form 6 May 2020
Accepted 8 May 2020 • Available online 1 June 2020

Fridolin Pflugmann
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Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs,
Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, MA, USA
Nicola De Blasio
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Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs,
Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, MA, USA
(corresponding author)

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