Fellow Koreans, citizens of Incheon,
The hydrogen economy that my Administration has prioritized is a key factor in the economy of the future. Incheon is emerging as the hydrogen-driven economy’s future central hub. The city is becoming the center of a hydrogen supply chain with businesses making large-scale investments and vigorously working together while the ecosystem for the hydrogen industry is taking shape in earnest.
Once the construction of Korea’s largest liquid hydrogen plant is complete, up to 30,000 tons of hydrogen will be steadily supplied each year beginning in 2023. In particular, the next-generation fuel cell complex, whose groundbreaking I am attending today, will serve as a mass production base for essential hydrogen fuel cell parts that further expands our lead in the hydrogen mobility sector. This is the result of well-coordinated cooperation between the Incheon Metropolitan Government and major hydrogen-related businesses. For its part, the Government will do everything possible to provide necessary support.
Hydrogen is the key energy source in the era of carbon neutrality. It fuels eco-friendly automobiles, ships and other means of transportation. As an all-purpose form of energy, hydrogen is used in fuel cells and other carbon-free power sources as well as industrial processes. It also plays a vital role in the storing and transmission of renewably generated energy.
The American economist Jeremy Rifkin authored “The Hydrogen Economy”19 years ago and predicted that hydrogen would emerge as a new energy regime that reorganizes the global economy, power structure and human civilization. His prediction is now turning into reality. The transition from a carbon-based to a hydrogen economy has become an irreversible trend that is directly impacting the future competitiveness of nations. The scale of the hydrogen economy market is also growing rapidly, projected to reach US$12 trillion by 2050.
Countries around the world are concentrating their capabilities on gaining an upper hand in the hydrogen economy. Businesses are engaging in fierce competition to dominate the hydrogen market ahead of others. Korea is no exception. One silver lining is that, when it comes to utilizing hydrogen, our country has managed to stay ahead of others around the world. We will further develop those areas where we are ahead to increase our huge lead and will quickly catch up in those areas where we lag behind. All national capabilities will be marshaled to spearhead the hydrogen economy.
Hydrogen is the first democratic energy source in history as it can be equitably obtained anywhere on Earth. The hydrogen era is one where the main energy sector actors are technology and innovation, not underground resources. In the fossil fuel era, Korea has been a natural resource-poor country that depends on imports for most of its energy needs. In the hydrogen era, it will be different. Possessing the best ability in the world to innovate, the Republic of Korea will be able to emerge as a proud, key player in this new energy sector. We can fulfill our ambitious dream of becoming a hydrogen leader, an energy powerhouse.
After identifying the potential and infinite possibility of the hydrogen economy, my Administration did not hesitate to blaze a trail. In January 2019, we announced the Roadmap to Vitalize the Hydrogen Economy and have vigorously implemented the measures incorporated within it for hydrogen-powered vehicles, hydrogen fueling stations, technology development, safety and other fields. We have enacted the world’s first Hydrogen Act, and the Pan-Government Committee on Hydrogen Economy was launched to establish a relevant support system. The funds earmarked for this sector have also increased every year – having significantly expanded from approximately 75 billion won in the early days of my Administration to about 1.3 trillion won next year, more than a 17-fold increase.
The Government’s active support has been combined with bold investments by businesses to invigorate the hydrogen industry ecosystem, accelerating the growth of the hydrogen economy. In particular, Korea is firmly maintaining its position as a global pacesetter in fields that utilize hydrogen: hydrogen-powered cars and hydrogen fuel cells. It also remains the unrivalled leading country in terms of sales and global market share of hydrogen-powered passenger cars. Trucks, trams, garbage trucks, forklifts, city buses, drones, ships and other hydrogen-powered transport means are being exported, utilized or performance tested. Korea also ranks first in the supply of fuel cells for power generation, succeeding in exporting them for the first time in September.
The number of hydrogen fueling stations has increased more than ten times to 112 as of August this year from nine in 2017 – the fastest expansion in the world. As proven through experiments and actual use, hydrogen as an energy source is safer than LPG, city gas and gasoline. However, a huge amount of unfounded apprehension about it still remains in our society. Among the 21 OECD member states that currently operate hydrogen fueling stations, Korea is the only country that does not have stations where drivers pump their own fuel. During my state visit to France in 2018, I saw hydrogen-powered taxis – passenger cars imported from Korea – on the road and drivers filling up unassisted at a hydrogen-fueling station in downtown Paris. If we can dispel the vague unease, the increase in the number of hydrogen fueling stations will accelerate; user convenience will be improved; and hydrogen car sales will expand faster.
Private-sector companies have also earnestly begun investing in the hydrogen economy, announcing large-scale investment plans valued at 43 trillion won. Last month, 15 domestic businesses that drive our economy launched the Korea H2 Business Summit. I look forward to this annual summit serving as a platform that helps businesses seek cooperation and joint responses amid the global competition for hydrogen leadership and that enhances the competitiveness of our hydrogen industry.
In order for Korea to emerge as a leading hydrogen country, we need a future vision and strategy that are bolder and take on more challenges. In particular, for a clear transition to the hydrogen economy along with carbon neutrality, it is essential to achieve a great transformation that’s built upon clean “green and blue” hydrogen rather than “gray” hydrogen that comes from by-products and extractions. To this end, clean hydrogen production capacity should be rapidly increased, and hydrogen utilization has to be expanded in various fields. The Government will vigorously push the initiative to become a “pacesetter in clean hydrogen” as a key future strategy of the Republic of Korea.
First, the current 100 percent gray hydrogen-based supply structure will be converted to one based on 100 percent clean hydrogen by 2050. By significantly increasing the production of blue and green hydrogen in the country, we will produce 2 million tons of blue hydrogen and 3 million tons of green hydrogen by 2050 without any gray hydrogen. Moreover, we will vigorously push ahead with the plan to produce clean hydrogen abroad with our technology and capital and import it. We must also take the lead in building transport ships for liquid hydrogen’s global distribution. Then, Korea will rise to the ranks of an energy powerhouse as a bona fide pacesetting nation in clean hydrogen.
Second, a close-knit infrastructure will be established, and it will supply hydrogen to all corners of the country and allow people to easily fill up anytime and anywhere. We will build over 2,000 hydrogen fueling stations by 2050 and create an environment where everyone can conveniently find fueling stations within a 20-minute drive by 2030 and a 10-minute drive by 2050. Moreover, an economical and safe liquid hydrogen infrastructure will be established to facilitate a large-scale clean hydrogen distribution network, and a nationwide pipeline network will be built in phases.
Third, a carbon-neutral Republic of Korea where hydrogen use is commonplace will be turned into reality. Our massive global lead in the hydrogen passenger car market will be expanded to the commercial vehicle market for products like hydrogen-powered buses, trucks and construction equipment. Applying hydrogen to future means of transportation such as urban air mobility, trams, drones and ships will bring us to the forefront of the eco-friendly mobility market. In the power generation sector, special support for hydrogen power generation will be bolstered, and energy transitions will be expedited through eco-friendly hydrogen- and ammonia-based power generation systems. Also, we will realize carbon neutrality even as we maintain the competitiveness of our steel industry by achieving decarbonization through hydrogen iron and steel making technology.
Fourth, the competitiveness of the hydrogen economy ecosystem will be enhanced through all-embracing, nationwide cooperation. The Government will actively support technology development in all hydrogen industry fields and spur standardization through joint international research. To stimulate investment by private sector businesses, regulations will be rationalized, and a roadmap for nurturing talented individuals for the hydrogen economy will be established to actively foster future professionals. We will also lead international cooperation. Procedures for trading hydrogen will be enacted by establishing an international hydrogen initiative. We will also actively create export opportunities for the hydrogen industry, including participation in building hydrogen infrastructure abroad, by drawing upon our advanced know-how.
The hydrogen economy is still in its infancy, but there is endless potential. If we boldly take on challenges and lead the hydrogen economy, it can become a blue ocean for a future growth engine and the creation of new jobs. The Government will take the lead in supporting and encouraging businesses that take on challenges. Korean companies are also expanding investments and strengthening cooperation among businesses through the Hydrogen Alliance. Now, the Government and businesses are one team that is moving the nation closer to being a hydrogen industry pacesetter. Together as “Team Korea,” we will vigorously usher in the future of the Republic of Korea, a pacesetting nation in the hydrogen industry.