The race to become the world leader in hydrogen production has begun—and the Middle East is at the front of the pack. Hydrogen—and in particular—green hydrogen, is often portrayed as the “silver bullet” in decarbonization technology—able to decarbonize even the hardest-to-abate sectors. With some of the best renewable energy sources in the world (both solar and wind), many Middle Eastern countries seek to maintain their position as global energy giants by producing and exporting new energy vectors — namely, hydrogen and its derivatives. Yet Joelle Thomas found herself wondering whether these lofty hydrogen goals will be sustainable in a region with one significant resource constraint: water.
Although the epicenter of the world’s petro- economy, countries in the Middle East understand the need to diversify away from fossil fuels. The need to transition is most strongly driven by broader regional priorities to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and grow the economy while also providing jobs for the increasing population of young people. At first glance, nuclear seems an apt tool to help the region meet these dual objectives. However, Middle Eastern countries would be better served by investing resources pegged to nuclear in the more promising solar and wind industries.