The effects of climate change on the global community are becoming more strongly felt every year, creating devastation on our everyday lives. To combat that, a transition to low-carbon energy carriers is being envisioned by state and private actors through pledges during climate conferences and several candidate carriers are proposed. Among these, green hydrogen, produced through electrolysis stemming from renewable electricity is poised to become the dominant renewable energy carrier. However, its production process entailes serious challenges, as for importing countries it will be very difficult to achieve security of supply. The field of security of supply is a highly complex one and correlated with the technological, scientific background of the energy carrier but also with the financial and market structure and the political stability of the importing and the exporting country. All of these components together formulate a very complex system that needs to be studied and further understood to better deal with the security of supply for importing regions, such as Europe.
There are several ways to study the foregoing system and its implications on the security of supply. These entail focusing on the technological aspects, the market structure or the geopolitical context. The first one would include research on the technology arms race by several state actor, whereas the second one would encompass a comparative case study between centralized and decentralized distribution and transmission systems, and whether unbundling would be beneficial for the energy transition. The third aspect, the geopolitical one, was chosen for two reasons. The first one is that a more holistic approach was needed and the problem of security of supply should be seen from a more spherical point of view. The second one is that there is already thorough research taking place in the previous two fields.
Hence, the following research question was answered: How might the geopolitical implications of a transition to green hydrogen affect the energy security of supply of the EU?
To answer the research question, initially, pattern modeling was introduced. To develop the patterns, the neoliberalism and neorealism schools of thought in international relations were used as foundation. A discursive approach was taken to formulate the patterns. Out of the many discourses that could have been used, the storyline approach was considered as most appropriate. Hence, two storylines were developed based on the two IR schools of thought. A deductive approach was taken and hence these schools of thought were used as a foundation to develop general themes that would be followed in each storyline. However, very little information and projections exist on the shape of the future green hydrogen system. Thus, a comparative case study was taken between the hydrogen and the natural gas system. The rationale is that there are many structural similarities with the existing gas system and the projections for the green hydrogen one. Initially, the gas system pattern is created based on historical data and expectations and the main insights gained are used as a foundation for the green hydrogen system pattern. Later, the green hydrogen system pattern is formulated based on a combination of its own projections and the gas system insights.
The results verify that there are indeed clear indications that the security of supply of the green hydrogen system will be challenging in a similar way such as the gas one. However, this research reveals that there will be much higher complexity in the green hydrogen system than in the gas one. The fact that green hydrogen is interconnected with the need for electricity and water and hence the security of these systems as well, there are many more ways that disruption can be brought to the supply chain. At the same time, this thesis showed that the geological advantage is much less of an issue at the green hydrogen system rather than the fossile fuel industry, which increases the number of potential patterns on energy imports significantly.
Overall, this research acknowledges the importance of understanding the geopolitical implications of a shift to renewable energy carriers. It is a clear indication for policymakers to implement and incorporate plans within their energy strategies that include ensuring security and stability to the main green hydrogen supplying countries. Additionally, it provides a brand new approach to academia in the energy transition sector, so that more focus takes place on ensuring the security of supply in the energy-food-water nexus rather than on advocating in favor of conflict resolution as a result of the shift to renewable energy.