[Interview] Man-ki Jeong, Chairman of KAMA, “We need to build a value chain with Europe using Korea’s leading hydrogen utilization technology!”

The Hydrogen Mobility + Show Organizing Committee (Chairman Man-kiJeong, hereinafter referred to as the organizing committee) organized and participated in the Korean Pavilion at the HYVOLUTION exhibition and forum, which was held in Paris, France, from May 11 to 12 (local time), for the revitalization of the hydrogen economy.

Prior to this, on November 17 last year, the organizing committee signed an NDA with GL Event, the organizer of HYVOLUTION and France’s largest MICE company, for international cooperation in the hydrogen industry such as hydrogen production, storage, transportation, and utilization.

At the exhibition, the organizing committee took part in various activities such as meetings with European entrepreneurs, individual interviews, and meetings with domestic entrepreneurs who participated HYVOKUTION, in order toexchange and collect opinions from domestic and foreign businessmen on the Korean hydrogen industry.

Amidst the growing interest in the Korean Pavilion from local exhibitors, which was jointly operated by 11 companies and institutions, including the organizing committee, Aving News met and interviewed Man-ki Jeong, Chairman of the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA) on the 12th.

*The interview was held at ‘HYVOLUTION 2022 (France Hydrogen Industry Exhibition 2022)’ held in Paris, France on May 11th. It was conducted in compliance with the country’s COVID-19 quarantine guidelines.

KAMA Chairman Man-ki Jeong │ Source-Aving News

Q1, Purpose of participating in Hyvolution

A. Chairman Man-ki Jeong: We wanted to attract more foreign companies, rather than limiting the Hydrogen Mobility + Show to domestic events. While considering how to make this happen, we gathered opinions on attending an overseas exhibition to form direct communication channels with local businessmen and buyers, which lead us to set up the first KAMA PR booth last year.

Afterwards, through an agreement with GL Event, the organizer ofHYVOLUTION, we decided to exchange exhibitions. Thus,11 participating companies and institutions endedupoperating a Korean pavilion in this year’s exhibition.

Thanks to this, French and European companies are expected to participate in the Hydrogen Mobility + Show, which will be held at Kintex, Goyang, on August 31st.

Q2. How would you diagnose the current state of the hydrogen industry in Korea and Europe?

A. Chairman Man-ki Jeong:  First of all, the concept of hydrogen economy and the hydrogen industry should be looked at separately. The hydrogen industry is a field that directly relates to systems that produce, store, and transport hydrogen. Automobiles, steel, and power plants are industries that use hydrogen. Hydrogen cars are part of the automobile industry, but they are also part of an industry that uses hydrogen. Generally speaking, the hydrogen industry and these industries that use hydrogen can be called the hydrogen economy.

However, Korea is leading the global market in hydrogen-based industries such as hydrogen cars and hydrogen fuel cells, sitting at third place in the world in patent applications. But its industrial base, including water electrolysis technology, is weak in hydrogen production, storage, and transportation.

In particular, Hyundai Motors developed the world’s first Tucson hydrogen car in 2013, which became a stepping stone for increasing interest and policy support for using hydrogen in industrial fields. However, the basic hydrogen industry of production-storage-transportation did not garner much attention and was technically weak.

On the other hand, in Europe, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have already developed the hydrogen industry since the 1980s and 1990s, especially in terms of environmental protection, and they have already secured competitiveness through years of experience and accumulated technology. But they are now only in the development stage in terms of interest in recent technologies, such as hydrogen cars. In other words, there are clear advantages and disadvantages between Europe and Korea, so we are expected to become good partners with a symbiotic relationship.

KAMA Chairman Man-ki Jeong giving a lecture at the Korea-France Hydrogen Mobility Cooperation Forum & Corporate IR │ Source-Aving News

Q3. What are the implications to the hydrogen industry with the recent Russia-Ukraine war?

A. Chairman Man-ki Jeong: In light of the recent conflict due to the Russia-Ukraine war, reducing Europe’s dependence on Russia’s energy has become a topic of interest. Increasing hydrogen production may be an alternative solution to this.

In the case of France, production has expanded to 7.2 billion euros in 2020 which was only 100 million euros in 2018. After Macron’s re-election, the scale has been expanded further, bringing the investment budget to 10 billion euros.

This trend is not limited to France. The Netherlands, Spain, and Germany have also confirmed large-scale investment plans, and 70 billion euros is expected to be invested in the hydrogen industry in Europe as a whole. Compared to the past, the scale has increased tremendously, which can become an opportunity for Korea as well.

In Korea, technological development is rapidly advancing for hydrogen-based steelmaking and hydrogen carriers, led by POSCO. For hydrogen carriers, Japanese companies were the first to develop them, but Korea has strengths because it has a lot of technology and experience in the manufacturing industry.

Although the foundation of the hydrogen industry is weak, most of the companies participating in this exhibition show are hopeful after showcasing their water electrolysis technology or hydrogen storage-oriented technology. The purpose of this opportunity is to promote our technology and increase competitiveness through cooperation with European partners. The response from participating companies has also been very good.

KAMA Chairman Man-ki Jeong │ Source-Aving News

Q4. Are there any global cooperation issues at the national level?

A. Chairman Man-ki Jeong:  I think hydrogen can definitely play a role in heading towards carbon neutrality. According to forecasts from organizations such as the Hydrogen Council and IRENA, by 2050, hydrogen is predicted to account for more than 20% of the energy market. In the future hydrogen era, opinions are divided as to what role Korea should play. Some believe that we should lead the hydrogen economy by producing hydrogen ourselves, but to be honest, we are not a country rich in renewable energy resources.

For wind power, the quality of the wind is not very good and there is not enough space. Similarly, we cannot destroy mountains to build solar power plants to harness solar heat. Under these circumstances, I think that Korea’s renewable energy production is quite limited. Once nuclear power is generated, it must be operated continuously for 24 hours, but electricity demand fluctuates greatly over time. Although there is a way to use the excess electricity,if there is no demand for electricity to produce and utilize hydrogen, the domestic supply is still imited.

Although these are not accurate statistics, the current domestic production of hydrogen is at least 1.9 million to 2 million tons. Most of which are self-consumption, and about 200,000 tons are traded in the market. 200,000 tons is enough for 2 million hydrogen cars, which is not a small number. However, it is still not that many compared to other countries.

In Chile, which is rich in solar and wind power, the amount of hydrogen that can be produced from renewable energy is 160 million tons per year based on IEA measurements.On the other hand,Saudi Arabia, Australia, and Latin American countries have abundant renewable energy resources, but there are no consumers and no incentive to generate electricity from renewable energy. However, if there is cooperation in producing hydrogen from abundant resources and transporting it with hydrogen carriers, the production of renewable resources will increase significantly.

From the left) Man-ki Jeong, Chairman of KAMA, and Leo Thevenet, CEO of French media Lecafedugeek, sharing a conversation│Source-Aving News

For example, it will not be easy for Chile to produce hydrogen independently, but if Korean companies enter the country and build infrastructure such as hydrogen production facilities and import the produced hydrogen, the hydrogen transport market will open.

To this end, cooperation with European countries is necessary for us in order to thoroughly study and accumulate technology. In particular, they have accumulated technologies that are more advanced than us in hydrogen production-storage-transportation, and are ahead in terms of plants. If Korea actively cooperates, it will be of great help in boosting the technology. Conversely, we are ahead in terms of application, so if we exchange and cooperate with each other in that field, we can cooperate and penetrate the market of third-world countries.

Q5. KAMA is likely to play a large role in the development of the hydrogen industry in the future. Are there any plans with regards to this?

A. Chairman Man-ki Jeong: To be honest, the Hydrogen Convergence Alliance (H2KOREA), an organization dedicated to promoting the domestic hydrogen industry, is likely to play a central rolerather than our association. However, since our association is hosting the ‘Hydrogen Mobility + Show’, we cannot just half-heartedly do it. Since it is important to understand the system and to present a direction, we are paying extra attention to it.

The role of the Hydrogen Convergence Alliance and KAMA is to bridge the gap between industry and government. All 16 industries in Korea are participants and organized under The Korea Industry Alliance Forum, including fields such as steel, shipbuilding, semiconductors, displays, and batteries.

In the future, it is necessary for the Korea Industry Alliance Forum to lead the hydrogen industry, not just KAMA. Therefore, starting this year, the Korea Industry Alliance Forumwill lead the ‘hydrogen mobility + energy show’. In addition, the mission is to develop the hydrogen industry by gathering the needs and suggestions of companies, delivering them to the government, and checking whether they are being implemented.

From the left) Man-ki Jeong, Chairman of KAMA, and Leo Thevenet, Ji-hoon Choi, editor-in-chief of Aving News│Source-Aving News