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Opinion: Edmonton region poised to capitalize on the hydrogen economy

A hydrogen manufacturing unit at the Scotford Shell site, near Fort Saskatchewan. File photo PHOTO BY RICK MACWILLIAM/Postmedia

On Wednesday, April 14, the Edmonton Region Hydrogen Hub was launched, backed by over $2 million in funding from three orders of government. This is an exciting first step in the establishment of Canada’s first hydrogen hub. As the economic development organization for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, Edmonton Global welcomes the news of this launch, are extremely proud to partner in its activities, and are excited to see the impacts that this will have on the acceleration of the hydrogen economy for our region and beyond.

The global race to export hydrogen is on and right now we have some advantages, but we can’t assume that these will last forever. That’s why we’re encouraged by this launch. We are coming together as a region to take a proactive and strategic approach to capitalize on this opportunity and move aggressively forward.

We know that for Canada and the world to meet our climate and greenhouse gas reduction targets, hydrogen must be part of the solution. And it must be produced in ways that dramatically reduce the carbon intensity. This is where our region has a significant and global advantage. We have the technologies, talent, and abundance ofnatural gas combined with proven carbon capture and storage that allows us to produce near-zero emissions hydrogen and we’re one of the lowest-cost producers in the world. A global hydrogen economy will flourish once there is adequate demand matched with an abundance of low-cost and low-emissions hydrogen — simply put, the economics need to work and right now, the Edmonton region has what’s needed to check all the right boxes.

The economic benefits that the hydrogen economy could bring to our region are truly transformative. Make no mistake, the opportunity is massive — Canadian hydrogen has a national and international wholesale market of up to $100 billion a year.

Even beyond the production and export of hydrogen and the creation of good quality, clean energy jobs, the hydrogen economy will bring significant opportunities to our region. The establishment of a hub can and will attract OEM and energy tech companies to the region — and more. The economic spin-off potential can’t be overstated. From tech start-ups to fuel cells, service companies to innovation labs, power generation to the infrastructure needed to export, and the finance and capital markets needed to bankroll these projects — it’s critical that we are paying attention to the bigger picture to ensure that we capitalize on all aspects of this opportunity. If the hydrogen economy will eventually result in hundreds of billions of immediate and spin-off benefits, we want as much of that as is possible, to be centred right here in the Edmonton metropolitan region.

When we look at how the oil and gas sector played out in our region, we can learn a few things. While significant investments were made into our region, we failed to capture a lot of the value-added benefits of this industry. This time around, it’s critical that we embrace a bold vision — one that would realize the radical transformation of our regional economy.

We must anchor this opportunity within a long-term plan to support economic development and investment attraction across our regional economy. That’s why the Edmonton Region Hydrogen Hub has been embedded into an economic development framework. It’s an incredibly competitive world when it comes to investment attraction and we must play to our strengths. Beyond being among the world’s least expensive producers of low-carbon hydrogen — we have a high quality of life, diverse and highly skilled talent, expertise in artificial intelligence, strong logistics and supply chains, and access to global markets. With focus and collaboration across our region, we can compete to win on the global stage.

Through this launch and the bringing together of key regional partners, we have the potential to accelerate the impacts that hydrogen can bring to our region, to Alberta, and to all of Canada —we’re excited to get started.

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