Canada and Germany have signed an agreement to team up on green energy innovation and trade, with an eye to hydrogen as the market for the low-carbon fuel heats up.
Signed Tuesday by the two countries’ energy ministers, it outlines a plan to cooperate on energy policy and research as both strive to reach the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, The Canadian Press reports.
Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said Quebec and his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador are particularly well positioned to start generating so-called “green hydrogen,” which burns cleanly and can be produced using wind and solar power.
O’Regan stressed the need to retrain workers in regions with economies long reliant on struggling fossil fuel industries, saying the transition could be “messy.”
“It often makes people on both sides of the political spectrum—either side—unhappy,” he said in a virtual signing ceremony with Peter Altmaier, Germany’s minister of economic affairs and energy. But “oil will be with us for some time, and it will continue to be a part of the Canadian economy, without question.”
Liquefied natural gas could serve as a handy “bridge fuel” to cross over into green-energy territory, he added, with Germany aiming to integrate LNG imports as well as hydrogen production into its own energy strategy. Reuters says the controversial Goldboro LNG project in Nova Scotia could be a part of that picture.
CP notes that the two countries might not see fully eye to eye on hydrogen, with Canada focusing recently on so-called “blue hydrogen.” That version of the fuel is typically derived from natural gas or other fossil fuels and coupled with carbon capture technology to reduce emissions, making it more politically viable in western Canadian provinces that boast abundant natural gas reserves.
The Globe and Mail picked up on the same disconnect in an earlier story leading up to the announcement.
“Germany is probably the world’s most interesting market for hydrogen right now, and Canada is potentially a very big power in its production,” said Germany’s ambassador to Canada, Sabine Sparwasser, who called the agreement a “match made in heaven” because of the importance attached to hydrogen in Germany’s decarbonization strategy. But “a report on Canada’s hydrogen potential and dynamics that was commissioned by the German government—expected to be released this week during the same Berlin virtual energy conference at which the agreement between the two countries will be announced—is implicitly critical of Ottawa’s blue hydrogen focus,” the Globe wrote Monday.
“How the focus on blue hydrogen will be aligned with Canada’s goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050 is not spelled out in detail,” warns Berlin-based think tank and consultancy Adelphi in the executive summary of the report. “As a result, the strategy seems to be more of a vision for the future of those provinces with large fossil fuel resources.”
Adelphi was more optimistic about green hydrogen production from renewable electricity in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, the Globe says.
Still, at a virtual international energy forum out of Berlin Tuesday, senior officials from several other G20 countries joined Canada and Germany in touting hydrogen as a key innovation to lower worldwide carbon emissions, CP says.
United States President Joe Biden’s special envoy for climate, John Kerry, told the forum he supported O’Regan’s push for creative and collaborative solutions, including the expansion of hydrogen, as a way for governments and the private sector to work together on the transition away from heavy reliance on fossil fuels.
“I think hydrogen is perhaps one of our greatest chances as obviously, that’s a shared point of view. Whole economies can be built on it,” Kerry said.
Foreign affairs and innovation ministers from Germany, Italy, and the European Union joined Canada and the U.S. in stressing the need for greater momentum to help build the renewable energy sector in both developing and developed nations through collaboration—collaboration that needs to happen on the international level as well as domestically, the ministers said.
When challenged about Canada’s ongoing spending on the fossil fuel industry while the Trudeau government continues to press other nations to go harder on green alternatives, O’Regan defended Canada’s oil, gas, and pipeline spending.
“We are not going to get oil-free overnight, by any stretch of the imagination, so in the meantime we have to do the hard work of lowering the emissions involved in the extraction and use of oil,” he said.
“This is not an act of charity, these are the people we need to do the hard work,” he added.
The main segment of this report was first published by The Canadian Press on March 16, 2021.