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How Green Hydrogen could be the key to climate-friendly, carbon-free energy

AEM Electrolysers Co-Founder Vaitea Cowan with electrolyser

While there is of course plenty of focus on solar and wind as the leading alternatives to oil and gas-powered energy generation, there are other technologies that may not be as well known but could be just as vital to fixing our climate. 

One such solution is “green hydrogen”, so The Earthshot Prize caught up with Vaitea Cowan, Co-Founder of 2021 Fix Our Climate Winner Enapter, to get an update on their progress and understand more about the potential of their solutions.

Hi Vaitea, firstly can you please remind us what ‘green hydrogen’ is and how Enapter produces it?

Sure! Hydrogen is a gas that we can use as a fuel, but unlike fossil fuels, it doesn’t produce any pollution when burned. You can create hydrogen using machines called electrolysers, but this itself requires power, which often comes from fossil fuels.

At Enapter we build electrolysers that are powered using renewable energy sources like wind or solar to create what is known as ‘green hydrogen’.


What are the uses of green hydrogen, and why is it important in helping to fix our climate?

The handy thing about green hydrogen is that it’s incredibly versatile. Any application today that uses fossil fuels can use this clean fuel instead.

Heavy-duty and long-distance transport like trucks can be refuelled quickly. In the power sector, remote areas can get clean energy and long-term storage. Hydrogen can also enable energy self-sufficiency in smaller electricity grids. Lastly, industries like steel and glassmaking are also turning to renewable hydrogen.

The world is progressing in switching to renewable sources of electricity generation, but the other ~79% of our energy use largely comes from fossil fuels. Green hydrogen is an alternative with zero CO2 emissions.

“There are a lot of smart people working on great ideas…. we have people developing and bringing to life the solutions that can help us take the urgent action we need.”

Vaitea Cowan, Co-Founder, Enapter

Where do you see the green hydrogen industry going?

We think the industry will really kick off globally around 2027. As more renewable energy goes online; decentralised green hydrogen electrolysers like ours will help balance the electricity grid by using excess energy that would otherwise go to waste.

Over the next years, the infrastructure to produce, transport and use hydrogen will be developed at scale, including hubs that will allow refuelling for air, maritime and long-distance transport.

However, this renewable fuel can only help fix our climate once the cost of green hydrogen dramatically drops, in parallel to more solar and wind being installed to lower the cost of electricity. At Enapter we are proud to be playing our role by scaling our production and thereby lowering the price of our electrolysers.

How have things been going for Enapter since winning The Earthshot Prize in 2021?

A lot has happened!

We’re almost ready to go live with the first demonstration model of our megawatt-scale electrolyser, the AEM Multicore, which will meet larger green hydrogen needs. Construction has begun on our Enapter Campus production and R&D site in Saerbeck, Germany and we also set a production record in Q4 2022, with more than 1,200 latest-generation electrolysers delivered to customers worldwide.


Have you been able to measure the impact Enapter has had so far?

Yes! Based on our best estimations, the use of our AEM Electrolysers in 2022 prevented emissions equivalent to just shy of 45,000 tonnes of CO2. And this is just the start.


What’s in Enapter’s pipeline for the next 12 months?

We’re excited about the launch of our demonstration model AEM Multicore in May. We’re also shipping our first commercial megawatt-scale electrolysers in 2023, so that will be a big focus.

While we already use 100% locally generated renewable electricity from the next-door Bioenergiepark, our next step is to deploy rooftop solar, energy storage with green hydrogen and other measures to make and use a lot of our electricity on-site.

It must seem like only yesterday you won The Earthshot Prize, do you have any advice for this year’s cohort of finalists?

I would say The Earthshot Prize is your platform to shoot for the stars. The sky is the limit, and we need bold goals to repair our planet: Aim high, and with The Earthshot Prize, you can make it.


What tips or advice do you have for the average person to help fix our climate? What actions should they take?

Talk about climate change. We can all raise the topic and speak about it in our communities. The more people understand it, the more they will find or create agency for themselves. The more active they are, the more they avoid the immobilising effect of the doom narrative.


And finally, what makes you hopeful for the future?

There are a lot of smart people working on great ideas. From ‘bio-mining’ to sequestering carbon in farmlands and allocating carbon credits to farmers, we have the people developing and bringing to life the solutions that can help us take the urgent action we need.


Thanks, Vaitea, all the best!

Thank you!

We choose to fix our climate

Learn more about the Enapter and the incredible work of all our Fix Our Climate Finalists.

The Earthshot Prize