Green hydrogen for the decarbonization of Chile: certification as an essential step

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Camión con logotipo de hidrógeno h2 para el transporte ecológico libre de emisiones. Camión con logotipo de hidrógeno h2 para el transporte ecológico libre de emisiones.

It is said that “what is not measured, cannot be improved.” And this statement is very true at a time when strides are being made in the energy transition toward more sustainable sources and uses of energy.

Using cleaner energy is one of the best ways to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change , but how can we ensure that we are actually replacing one polluting energy source with a cleaner one?

Certifying to international standards

According to the International Energy Agency, green hydrogen (H2) is the new energy vector that promises to complement the efforts being made in terms of energy efficiency, renewable energies, and the electrification of demand along with synthetic fuels to reduce the carbon footprint. It is also the most abundant element on the planet and the one that promises to “decarbonize” the sectors of the economy that are difficult to electrify, such as mining, road and rail freight transportation, and metal work, among others.

However, not all hydrogen is obtained in the same way. Some forms are more polluting than others, so it is essential to certify how it is produced.  The amounts of greenhouse gases emitted throughout the process must be quantified. For example, if hydrogen is obtained using electricity, the gas emissions involved in generating that electricity (which could come from renewable or non-renewable energy) must be accounted for. In addition to this accounting is confirmation that the water required is used in a sustainable manner.

Certifying emissions in hydrogen production is a quality assurance measure that facilitates the development of the hydrogen industry and markets, not only for local consumption but also for export.  Value is therefore added to hydrogen because it is accepted in international markets that demand large volumes with high-quality standards. Using the same certification method for both purposes - local consumption and export - is ideal, as it generates greater confidence and credibility for the country or entity that produces it.

Certification process that is  compatible with EU Renewable Energy  Directives  Source: HInicio- 2021
Certification process that is compatible with EU Renewable Energy Directives - Source: HInicio - 2021

For example, having a scheme that complies with European Union (EU) regulations could be the best way to generate guarantees of origin that help to fulfill the sustainability criteria for export purposes. This would allow locally-produced hydrogen or its derivatives to be exported directly to European markets, without being affected by trade barriers.

The case of Chile

Chile has already outlined a strategy that indicates that green hydrogen will help to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 21%, and identifies the potential for hydrogen production and the possible markets and sectors that would use it. In order to achieve this, consideration must be given to the registration and certification of GHG emissions. However, there are different certification schemes and verification methodologies that allow for this ‘’registration’’ in the hydrogen production chain. 

A study financed by the World Bank for the Government of Chile identifies the available schemes and analyzes which ones could be used in the country. It recommends the adoption of a method that is designed based on the internationally accepted guarantee of origin standards (for example, the European CertifHy or California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard), which serves the dual purpose of verifying the reduction targets that the country has proposed and trading in hydrogen internationally.

In addition, the study proposes that the certification process be clear and simplified so that both large and small producers of green H2 can access it; and that the governance of the certification system be based on a public-private scheme, to provide a good balance of development.

Improving the achievement of Chile’s decarbonization goals

Measuring and certifying GHG emissions in green hydrogen production in Chile is essential for the achievement of the country’s decarbonization goals , in its effort to continue combating climate change. Certification helps to ensure the achievement of the decarbonization goals and the generation of carbon credits, as many case studies show.

Implementing certification of origin systems for green hydrogen in Chile would ensure that the industry and transportation that use this energy resource have lower GHG emissions than other alternatives.  Achieving this will not only help with the attainment of the goals of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), or the decarbonization commitments made by Chile, but it will also allow for the exporting of green hydrogen and ensure that products that include hydrogen in their value chains also have lower GHG content (as could be the case with copper), thereby adding value to their exports.

Undoubtedly, the saying that “you must measure in order to improve” has found a new partner in green hydrogen development through certification!


Read more about green hydrogen:

Green Hydrogen: A solution for Chile's climate emergency and economic recovery.


Janina Franco

Senior Energy Specialist at the World Bank

Roberto Estevez

Energy Specialist at the World Bank.

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