Interview with OGHOSA ERHAHON, Independent Consultant, Hydrogen Policy Expert, TEDx Speaker and Co-Author of “Touching Hydrogen Future”

Envisioning a hydrogen-powered future

Hydrogen, often perceived as a buzzword in the energy discourse, holds great significance as a crucial element for achieving global net-zero objectives. Not only it signifies a technological shift but it also embodies a responsibility in our collective journey towards decarbonization. Regardless of the uncertainties surrounding the energy transition, one thing is crystal clear: the vital role of human capital.

In this exclusive interview, Oghosa Erhanon shares valuable insights from her co-authored book, “Touching Hydrogen Future,” and her TEDx speech, “Carbon Neutrality.”

Oghosa is a seasoned legal expert with a rich background in crafting policies and strategies across energy and sustainability sectors. Her multifaceted experience includes roles in government-led missions, donor-funded programs, and consultancy management spanning continents from Africa to Europe. From advising on the GIZ-Global Hydrogen Diplomacy Programme to serving as a Hydrogen Policy Expert for the Research Institute for Sustainability, her expertise has shaped global conversations on energy transformation.

Discover the complexity of opportunities and challenges brought by the hydrogen transition, guided by Oghosa’s wealth of knowledge and expertise.

  1. Hydrogen is an element of hope for both our economy and our future regarding climate change. What are, in your opinion, the most valuable applications for hydrogen in achieving net-zero goals?

Hydrogen, possibly a buzzword but a critical energy vector, comes with its responsibility towards reaching global net-zero goals. Hydrogen development brings versatile applications for pathways towards decarbonization. Let’s take the hard-to-abate industries: the ones which would be harder to simply electrify. Hard-to-abate industries include steel production, cement production and ammonia synthesis etc. which are necessary industries for industrialization. So, as our global population increases the world needs roads, housing, and general infrastructure. Low-carbon hydrogen facilitates the decarbonization of these hard-to-abate industries, ultimately reducing emissions that would otherwise have been emitted.

Further, hydrogen as an appreciated application is valuable in energy storage. As a last frontier on the decarbonization journey, long-duration energy storage – like hydrogen – offers a solution to excess energy generation, especially from renewable energy sources. An example is enabling the integration of renewable energy into the grid and advancing the decarbonization journey.

2. You are one of the co-authors of “Touching Hydrogen Future: Tour around the Globe”. Almost 150 years after Jules Verne first envisioned a world powered by hydrogen, the book paints a picture of a transformed world powered by hydrogen and other energy transition vectors. What is your input in educating and inspiring the next generation to embrace and actively contribute to the development of hydrogen technology?

The “Touching Hydrogen Future” book changed our lives! My co-editors, Erik Rakhou and Rosa Puentes, and our over 27 co-authors have been some of the most inspirational people I have created with. We started this conversation in 2021, raising an idea of what the world could be with focus and determination towards achieving our decarbonization goals across industries and communities.

The book covers so many interesting topics for the next generation to embrace and actively contribute to the development of hydrogen technology. It’s worth mentioning that what I appreciate about the chapters covering Namibia, China or Kazakhstan is that they offer space for the younger generation to imagine what is possible. Navigating careers and emerging technologies ahead of net-zero future can easily be overwhelming – I find it easier to start from what an ideal world looks like and then work backwards. For example, let’s say you are a civil engineer: What would the future need from you? Start there!

3. In your TEDx Talk, “Carbon Neutrality: Small Changes, Big Impact”, you discuss the urgent need for carbon neutrality and the role individuals and nations can play in reducing carbon emissions. What are the key takeaway ideas from your speech you want to share with our readers?

Oh, what a time that was! Reaching Carbon Neutrality is to be a continuous effort without any hard stop. What we see with targets and deadlines is that they act as guidelines towards ensuring strategies and metrics are adequately in place to enable sustainability. So, when people say “reaching net-zero emissions or carbon neutrality”, we expect, by 2040, for example, a country positioned to decarbonize industry or meet neutrality to have frameworks, projects, strategy, projects completed, educational facilities, and continuous development working to provide low carbon systems.

My initial story towards carbon neutrality is the concept of carbon sink: finding ways to sequester carbon. It is vital to consider tree planting, biodiversity, protecting ocean reefs and so on, but my key takeaway is empowering everyone to know that decisions – big or small – have an impact. However, the main impact will have to come from the biggest emitters – and that’s where the majority of the emission trading schemes, cross-border carbon adjustment methodologies etc. are cracking down on.

I also believe that reaching carbon neutrality is a privileged experience. The reason being that so many countries, for example, barely reached their optimized energy consumption levels. Now they have an opportunity to develop systems that have sustainability and low carbon possibilities from the onset.

4. You believe green hydrogen requires a massive scale-up of renewable energy capacity, and this process could boost employment opportunities and the creation of new jobs. Could you offer some examples of such professions?

This is an increasingly popular question. I appreciate communities like Green Careers Hub and their work in elevating these possibilities especially when it comes to discussing employment and sustainable jobs for the future. The energy transition is posed with so many uncertainties but one thing we know for sure (beyond artificial intelligence) is that we will need people for this transition.

People who are savvy in design, who know how to handle technology, work on community sensitization, and who understand legal frameworks, financial structures, intellectual property and even knowledge management. So many exciting positions! I also understand where the fear comes from especially with school leavers or professionals in traditional energy spaces navigating the transition. Sustainable jobs are the future: the fundamental skills we learn now are adaptable for the next five, ten and even thirty years!

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