The Green Hydrogen Standard (hereafter “the Standard”) establishes a global definition of green hydrogen. Green hydrogen is hydrogen produced through the electrolysis of water with 100% or near 100% renewable energy with close to zero greenhouse gas emissions.It requires that the environmental, social and governance consequences of green hydrogen production are thoroughly evaluated. It also requires that the development opportunities and impacts of green hydrogen production and use are fully considered.
The Standard is based on a project-level certification and accreditation. Chapter 2 outlines seven general and seven detailed requirements that projects must satisfy.
The Green Hydrogen Standard provides a clear global minimum standard, while also retaining the flexibility to accommodate local challenges and opportunities. The Standard places the onus on green hydrogen producers to demonstrate that they are addressing the environmental, social and governance performance of their projects in accordance with national laws and regulation and global best practice. The Standard seeks to ensure consistency and credibility, while also maintaining country ownership.
GH2 embraces the principle and practice of accountability by government and industry to all citizens for the stewardship of natural resources. Certification and accreditation by GH2 require that green hydrogen projects are subject to a credible, independent assessment, applying international assurance standards. The procedures emphasise openness and stakeholder consultation. Proactively engaging and building trust with key communities and stakeholders will also be its own reward outside of certification as it will build social licence to operate and improve the positive impacts of the investment and help mitigate any externalities.
1. Rigorous accounting of greenhouse gas emissions – guaranteeing close to zero emissions
The Green Hydrogen Standard sets a maximum threshold for greenhouse gas emissions of 1 kg CO2e per kg H2 (see Requirement 5E, below). GH2 has worked with stakeholders to develop an emission measurement methodology that builds on international best practice and that enables comparisons with other hydrogen production pathways. GH2 also reviewed the academic literature and consulted green hydrogen producers on an appropriate threshold. The GH2 Standard is rigorous, yet practical, with emission accounting procedures and thresholds that can be applied consistently to grid and off grid production.
The boundaries of the carbon accounting system and the thresholds at which hydrogen is considered “green” need to be clearly defined and trusted as credible by all stakeholders. With some modifications, GH2 applies the methodology for the electrolysis production pathway being developed by the International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy (IPHE) as outlined in the Working Paper Methodology for Determining the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Associated with the Production of Hydrogen (see Annex 1). The IPHE does not establish an emissions threshold. Building on IPHE’s work, the Standard addresses the storage, conversion and delivery of H2 and its derivatives (see Requirement 5E). Priority is given to green ammonia, as a leading candidate for the transportation of green hydrogen.
While the emissions associated with hydrogen production have received significant attention, demonstrating that green hydrogen has been produced sustainably needs to be addressed in green hydrogen certification. The Standard tracks the overall social, environmental and governance performance of green hydrogen production.
GH2 focuses on the renewable energy technologies that are the leading candidates for scaling up green hydrogen production. GH2 accreditation and certification requires the project operator to demonstrate that hydrogen is produced through the electrolysis of water with 100% or near 100% renewable energy. GH2 accreditation and certification requires renewable energy sourced from hydropower, wind, solar (solar thermal and solar photovoltaic), geothermal energy, tide, wave and other ocean energy sources. In exceptional circumstances, and in consultation with stakeholders, GH2 will consider opportunities to engage with project operators that are planning to produce hydrogen with other renewable non-fossil sources, but only where these projects meet the same emissions and sustainability standards.
Accelerating the production and utilisation of green hydrogen requires and supports a large increase in the production and utilisation of renewable energy. In order to be accredited and certified, the Standard requires that green hydrogen project operators prepare an evaluation of the project’s utilisation of electricity and the impact on the energy market. The project operator must demonstrate that it has identified and implemented technically feasible and cost-effective measures that support energy efficiency or other decarbonisation options, addressing any impacts vis-à-vis access to affordable and reliable energy. The expectation is that green hydrogen projects contribute to the build-out of new renewable energy capacity and avoid leading to increased use of fossil-generated electricity elsewhere in the energy system.
The wider social and environmental impacts associated with additional renewable capacity need to be considered. Green hydrogen production facilities also need to be developed and operated responsibly and sustainably. Key questions include: Are the social and environmental impacts of new projects fully considered? Can free, prior and informed consent be verified? Does the project comply with international human rights standards and are human rights promoted where the energy is produced? Has a good faith effort to engage key stakeholders and communities proactively been made? Have they been provided with the information and potential opportunities to engage that they see as most relevant and needed?
The Green Hydrogen Standard incorporates best practice sustainability assessments into investment analysis and project decision-making processes through an inclusive process where stakeholder views are solicited, respected and addressed. The GH2 Standard incorporates the impact on affected communities, labour and working conditions, and the prohibition of all forms of slavery, child and forced labour. The use and management of water resources will also be considered during the certification process, together with adherence to best practice health and safety standards in green hydrogen production, storage and transportation.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call for the betterment of global populations, while preserving the environment and guarding against a climate disaster. Green hydrogen is a unique technology and fuel that allows for scalable investment and dramatically decarbonised industry. As a system for energy production, it also promises to deliver greater energy independence for countries without natural endowments of fossil fuels as well as offering an alternative to fossil fuels. In order to achieve the SDGs and Paris Agreement targets, the energy transition must become a transformational global effort. An energy revolution is underway, but 759 million people still live without electricity and the development opportunities it provides.
Green hydrogen has enormous potential to support the achievement of the SDGs. The most obvious contributions relate to SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and SDG 13 (climate action). In addition, there are direct and indirect contributions that contribute to almost all of the SDGs, including SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), SDG 14 (life below water) and SDG 15 (life on land) that should also be considered. The Standard requires that green hydrogen project operators assess the project’s development impact and contribution towards achievement of the SDGs. This work should be undertaken at an early stage, with a view to maximising the development potential to support energy sector development, increase energy security and development opportunities.