Doughnut-PESTLE Hydrogen Model (DPHM)

Analysing the hydrogen economy by applying a Doughnut-PESTLE Hydrogen Model

The hydrogen economy requires the right conditions to produce hydrogen by sustainable routes and provide it to local and international markets for suitable applications. We have created a novel approach by utilising the indicators from The World Bank and The Global Economy. We also drew inspiration from Prof. Kate Raworth's doughnut economic model. Our model evaluates the political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental (PESTLE) conditions that can be instrumental in adopting hydrogen technologies effectively. It encapsulates aspects relevant to key stakeholders from hydrogen developers through to end-users. For instance, the model shows that countries with a government effectiveness index between 0.5 and -0.5 are leading the planning of hydrogen economies through strategic cooperation with hydrogen technology developers. Furthermore, the estimated ammonia demand in 2050 and subsequent anthropogenic nitrogen extraction rate will be about two and a half times more than the 2009 extraction rate.

The Doughnut-PESTLE hydrogen model (DPHM) approach to analysing the hydrogen economy has raised more research questions than answers regarding the planetary boundaries. Some of the questions are:

  • how much should the hydrogen economy contribute to climate change through hydrogen production without carbon capture and storage?
  • how much biodiversity should we lose through the land-intensive renewable energy technologies?
  • how much nitrogen should we remove from the atmosphere for ammonia production? What will be the global or country-level sustainable nitrogen extraction rate?
  • how much seawater should we desalinate beyond unsustainable levels?
  • how much land should we permanently convert to hydrogen economy activities such as mining? and
  • what will be the accepted environmental pollution from the hydrogen economy?

Further studies and the lessons learned from the utilisation of fossil fuels will be crucial in answering these questions to ensure that we do not repeat the same mistakes of the oil and gas industry. The goal when creating a hydrogen economy should be to ensure access to electricity, clean and safe drinking water, and wealth distribution. Otherwise, the hydrogen economy may repeat the same profit-driven values of the oil and gas industry. 

Furthermore, what will be the country-level planetary boundaries? Answering this question will enable a just and safe hydrogen economy for everyone due to maximum country-level accountability. Open-ended and global boundaries such as the Paris Agreement 1.5 degrees goal are prone to individualistic efforts. For instance, a case could be made for developing countries with fossil fuel reserves to produce hydrogen without carbon capture and storage since the greenhouse gas emissions of most developing countries are well below those of developed countries. However, continuing a path of destruction while trying to catch up economically will only lead to more catastrophic effects of surpassing planetary boundaries. Moreover, green hydrogen production offers developing countries a unique opportunity to catch up industrially.

However, seizing the opportunities ingrained in the hydrogen economy is an individual country's responsibility as much as it is a global responsibility. The countries with effective governments will implement a safe and just hydrogen economy while attracting hydrogen technology developers. Therefore, the onus is on the respective country, regional and African association(s) leaders to be unequivocally intentional about spearheading favourable hydrogen-based policies for the hydrogen economy to have a meaningful impact on the continent and the global energy landscape as a whole. These include:

  1. Enabling transparent, independent, and effective governments,
  2. Creating robust democratic systems,
  3. Creating business-friendly environments,
  4. Establishing upskilling programs targeted at women because where women lead, economies thrive,
  5. Spearheading research and development programs targeted at the entire hydrogen supply chain that will ultimately increase the technological attractiveness,
  6. Developing transparent regulatory, legal, and property frameworks in line with international standards, and
  7. Implement measurable policies to improve access to electricity, and water, protecting the environment, and public awareness campaigns.

This study was published in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy and a comprehensive analysis can be accessed by clicking here. Our preceding study on the renewable hydrogen economy outlook in Africa can be accessed by clicking here.




    Robert McGinnis

    Tampa, FL, Tampa, Florida, United States of America

    I am interested in introducing Finance students to Doughnut economics

    Yvonne-Sylvia Constantin

    Sion, Valais/Wallis, Suisse

    The interest in participating in a project using this concept


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