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In a world that goes from one global energy crisis to another, there is a call to accelerate the energy transition from natural gas towards renewable sources. One of the most promising sources of carbon-free energy is green hydrogen.

I had the pleasure to talk to Mr. Theocharis Grigoriadis, who is an Associate Professor of Economics and East European Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. He attended University of California, Berkeley, Saint Petersburg State University, Yale University, as well as the University of Athens. Mr. Grigoriadis is a current research fellow at Istanbul Policy Center, where he works on topics like renewable energy and green hydrogen transition.

KJA: Firstly, I wanted to ask you about your career, according to my knowledge, you lived in many parts of the world, could you please explain how you ended up in Istanbul, what was your motivation to work here on your research?

TG: So basically, I have received the idea from different sources, but mainly I ended up here because of the fact that I have always been looking for an interesting opportunity during my sabbatical semester, so I wanted to be in a place where I could develop myself more and IPC-Mercator was one of the places I was applying to. An additional factor was also my brother, because as a professor, he was also an IPC-Mercator fellow from Istanbul to Berlin, so these were the two factors that inspired me: my interest in exploring new places and develop myself there and my family. Actually, I live here in my brother’s house.

KJA: I have had the opportunity to read your publication named The Political Economy of The Green Hydrogen Transition which I found extremely interesting therefore, as a first question, I would like to ask you to define what green hydrogen is and what it is used for.

TG: First, hydrogen is a chemical substance, a good alternative to methane, and it is the most abundant chemical element, estimated to make up around 75% of the universe. Hydrogen also can be used for oil refining, ammonia and methanol production, heating, cooling power plant engines. In energy policy, we have been looking at hydrogen as a storing device – though first it was blue hydrogen: the non-eco-friendly version of hydrogen – which has been quite widespread for the last 10 years. Although there are recent breakthroughs in storage technologies, electricity still cannot be stored effectively, thus the opportunity to store renewable energy in the form of hydrogen can help in reducing transmission line investments, and in the construction of solar and wind power plants. Now, this is a way to store this energy in a liquified form, in hydrogen form and this is what green hydrogen is. The whole idea is that we can use pipelines to transport this liquified green energy, which makes the whole process revolutionary.

KJA: What is the process of producing green hydrogen?

TG: The idea is to build the installation near a lake and conclude the process called electrolysis there with the help of energy that is produced previously by solar or wind energy farms. This renewable energy would generate electricity, which goes through the process of electrolysis that splits the water to oxygen – that goes to the environment - and hydrogen and it becomes a portable mobile fuel without having to use CO2 – the main cause of global warming – while its production.

KJA: What are the obstacles of the widespread application of green hydrogen?

TG: The problem is that very few countries have the technology to produce it, although France and Germany are some of them and the other aspect is that it requires desalinated water, so you need places where there are a lot of lakes, because seawater is not applicable in this case while the costs of desalination are still high. Despite these, I believe that sea water will be applicable later in the future for the same goals. Other than that, the price of new technologies – both for generating solar and wind energy that are needed for the process, and for the installation itself – are higher than simply using natural gas, not talking about the skilled workforce that is needed and the time to construct the infrastructure.

KJA: Could you please tell me more about the protentional cooperation between Turkey and the European Union regarding the topic of green hydrogen and renewables?

TG: Some of Turkey’s biggest energy groups are very active in creating complementarities for natural gas and interested in the green hydrogen market. You can also see that the perspectives for green hydrogen are strongly linked to the complementarities of natural gas, but still, the expansion of renewables depends on natural gas that can make it problematic from the political aspects, so I think this is what makes Turkey an important factor in Europe. The European Union is definitely sinking caused by the situation of energy supplement, that must be changed in the future, not only because of a political perspective but because of a practical perspective, as it is clear that we can not only rely on natural gas coming from one or two sources and this is where Turkey comes to the scene. Although this whole process requires a huge investment from the side of the EU, which has party happened in renewables, in wind and solar energy so far. Especially in wind energy, there is a big involvement of Wester European companies here. I mean, energy itself is already a joint venture between E.ON and Sabancı group and these groups also have the resources for green hydrogen production.

After all, it can be clearly seen that potential cooperation between the European Union and Turkey has already set its roots, as Germany and other Western European countries are interested in relying on a carbon-free green energy course coming from Turkey, thus this way they would be able to reduce their attachment from their previous business partners, and reduce the use of natural gas.

- written by Jázmin Anna Komjáti