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Low-Carbon Hydrogen Presents Attractive Alternative Investment Opportunities for Infrastructure Investors

New Research by BCG and EDHECinfra Finds Green Hydrogen Will Be $6 Trillion to $12 Trillion Investment Opportunity Over Next Three Decades

BOSTON—In spite of the lingering effects of the COVID-19-induced economic downturn, rising inflation, and geopolitical implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, infrastructure investment, the fastest-growing alternative asset class, has lived up to its promise and proven its resilience.

From December 31, 2019, to December 31, 2022, infrastructure investments delivered an annualized total return of 7.36%, including both cash yields and valuation increases, and even generated positive returns in the challenging 2022 environment.

This explains why fundraising in 2021 grew by 50% over the previous year, while investments in other alternative assets—such as real estate (-25%), private equity (-21%), private debt (-10%), and venture capital (9%)—have grown at a significantly slower pace. As of today, infrastructure investors have assets of $1.1 trillion in the energy and environmental, transport and logistics, digital infrastructure, and social infrastructure sectors under management. According to a global study of infrastructure funds conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and EDHECinfra in the third quarter of 2022, 67% of general partners say that they plan to increase their investments in the renewable energy sector over the next three to five years.

The full results of the study are highlighted in a new report published today, titled Building the Green Hydrogen Economy, which explores the risks and returns that infrastructure investors generated in 2022, along with the emerging opportunities for investment in the hydrogen industry.

“As the world works to stay on track with the Paris Agreement, and governments rebuild infrastructure with an eye towards ensuring carbon-neutrality, the infrastructure investment market will continue to expand,” said Wilhelm Schmundt, BCG managing director and partner, and global lead for infrastructure investment. “Hydrogen is turning into a lucrative alternative investment opportunity and a logical extension for funds with a mandate to develop sustainable resources.”

An Emerging Opportunity in the Hydrogen Industry

To reach net zero by 2050, low-carbon hydrogen is a novel option to decarbonize industries with hard-to-abate emissions, such as basic chemicals, aviation, steel production, shipping, and long-haul road transportation. While gray hydrogen is generated from natural gas or methane, low-carbon hydrogen is produced through electrolysis powered by renewable energy sources such as wind or solar, or fossil fuels paired with carbon capture and storage.

In 2021, demand for hydrogen was around 94 million tons—most of it in the form of the less environmentally friendly gray hydrogen. But by 2050, the demand for low-carbon hydrogen will approach 350 million tons per year. To meet the world’s decarbonization goals, BCG calculated that the public and private sectors must invest $6 trillion to $12 trillion in assets between 2025 and 2050 to produce and transport low-carbon hydrogen. Although investment opportunities will extend across the hydrogen value chain—from feedstock development and generation to hydrogen transportation and storage—$300 billion to $700 billion of that amount must be deployed by 2030.

Four Strategies to Gain First-Mover Advantage in the Hydrogen Industry

Historically, early investors have generated higher returns by being the first to move into infrastructure sectors. In the renewable energy industry, firms that invested in wind energy and solar power generation in the early 2010s reported higher internal rates of return than those that did so in the following decade.

The report details four investment strategies that can help investors gain early-mover advantage in the emergent hydrogen industry and outperform others:

  • Follow subsidies and invest only in countries and segments of the value chain where policymakers have developed or plan to create monetary mechanisms that will limit their risks.
  • Shift the technical execution risks associated with investing in low-carbon projects to seasoned partners.
  • Create a portfolio by investing in various hydrogen-related projects to generate synergies that will help each one perform better.
  • Expand risk appetite to gain early momentum.

“Hydrogen has long been regarded as a key part of the quest to create a sustainable planet and now, it may finally be poised to have its moment to shine, which should attract savvy infrastructure investors,” said Frank Klose, a BCG managing director and senior partner.

Download the publication here.

Media Contact:
Eric Gregoire
+1 617 850 3783

About EDHECinfra

EDHECinfra, a venture of the renowned international EDHEC Business School, is an index data, benchmarks, analytics, and research provider for investors in the unlisted infrastructure universe. We have built the largest, most representative database of underlying infrastructure investments in the world. Indices we provide help investors to measure the risk-adjusted performance of private infrastructure debt and equity within their portfolios. Our indices use the latest market information to measure the fair value of thousands of unlisted infrastructure debt and equity investments in 25 countries. We can also create customized benchmarks for individual investors who require specific TICCS® tilts in their portfolio benchmark. Our research hub, a team of experts who create and maintain our indices, is based in Singapore. We also have a business center in London to serve the financial community in Europe and North America.

About Boston Consulting Group

Boston Consulting Group partners with leaders in business and society to tackle their most important challenges and capture their greatest opportunities. BCG was the pioneer in business strategy when it was founded in 1963. Today, we work closely with clients to embrace a transformational approach aimed at benefiting all stakeholders—empowering organizations to grow, build sustainable competitive advantage, and drive positive societal impact.
Our diverse, global teams bring deep industry and functional expertise and a range of perspectives that question the status quo and spark change. BCG delivers solutions through leading-edge management consulting, technology and design, and corporate and digital ventures. We work in a uniquely collaborative model across the firm and throughout all levels of the client organization, fueled by the goal of helping our clients thrive and enabling them to make the world a better place.