Key role for hydrogen in Berenschot’s two transition scenarios

Published on 18 April 2018

To facilitate the climate debate, Berenschot has come up with and calculated two extreme scenarios: an electron scenario and a molecule scenario. In both transition paths, CO2 emissions will be reduced to virtually zero by 2050. It is likely that the future scenario will actually be somewhere in between these two. The scenarios are not mutually exclusive and by and large they share the same infrastructure. Combinations are perfectly feasible, but hydrogen is the key.

In the electron scenario, CO2 reduction is achieved by the extremely large-scale focus on renewable energy from solar and wind, from which ‘green’ hydrogen is also produced. As well as contributing to renewable energy, the molecule scenario mainly focuses on CO2 reduction through ‘blue’ hydrogen that is extracted from natural gas (LNG or high calorific). Both options are extremes and could also be combined in terms of mix and time. Berenschot would like to use the transition paths to contribute to the debates on implementing the Paris Climate Agreement, the aim of which is to reduce carbon emissions by 80% to 95% by 2050.

Two sorts of hydrogen are key: blue and green

The key in both scenarios is hydrogen, with a distinction being made between blue and green hydrogen and a joint infrastructure so the blue and green versions can operate together. Blue hydrogen is extracted from methane (natural gas) by means of an Auto Thermal Reforming (ATR) process in which CO2 is stored underground as maritime waste. Blue hydrogen can be used for industry and power stations throughout the Netherlands as a CO2-free gaseous fuel in the short term. Green hydrogen comes from surplus renewable energy, especially from maritime wind. The surplus, which is only produced at a later stage, can be converted into green hydrogen by means of electrolysis. It can also be used for industry and power stations throughout the Netherlands as a CO2-free gaseous fuel. “In both of these scenarios, if we bear in mind the financial and energy consequences on an integrated system level, hydrogen is the key to CO2 reduction in heat consumption among the various sectors,” according to Bert den Ouden, Sector Leader Energy at Berenschot.

Ongoing debate

The aim of the scenarios is to explore the options and effects on each of the extreme transition paths. The electron scenario entails higher costs (budgeted at 45 billion euros per year) and is free of fossil fuels. The molecule scenario is considerably cheaper (budgeted at 31 billion euros per year) and still uses a reduced amount of fossil fuels. However, combining the scenarios is perfectly feasible. “We would like to use these extremes to further our knowledge of extreme solutions: the molecule scenario, the electron scenario and all options in between,” explains Den Ouden. “By no means does this complete the exploration of the transition options. For instance, we are still being cautious about making assumptions with regard to heat networks and biomass. We would also like to draw up and calculate a separate heat scenario, for example.”

Hastening CO2 reduction through smart combination

Combinations are therefore perfectly feasible and hydrogen is the key. By focusing on blue hydrogen, a CCS version that produces hydrogen at the source, it is now possible to reduce CO2 emissions immediately. This is already possible in the short term, by switching more quickly to a hydrogen infrastructure through the conversion of the current gas infrastructure. We could then continue to focus on maritime wind power or even import green hydrogen from other countries so that in time blue hydrogen would be supplemented and gradually replaced by green hydrogen. This way, both scenarios would be compatible.


Berenschot combined the publically available Energy Transition Model (ETM) with its own models to quantify both scenarios. The total costs (all sectors) for the electron scenario were calculated to be €45 billion per year and the molecule scenario came out at €31 billion per year. Berenschot bears responsibility for the findings of the exercise. The work for these scenarios was funded by EnPuls, Top Consortium for Knowledge & Innovation (TKI) for energy and industry, and TKI Gas.