Alumni portrait - Rosa Puentes
Position: Interoperability Adviser at ENTSOG in Brussels
Education: Department of Energy and Process Engineering through the Erasmus + exchange program
My best interview - Rosa Puentes
During my year at NTNU, I got deeply involved in the subject energy technologies. I must admit that my experience at NTNU was the start of a new chapter. I finally understood what being an engineer meant.
Good morning Rosa, tell us more about yourself and your studies…
Thank you very much for inviting me to this initiative. It is a great pleasure to be a part of this NTNU Alumni community and activities to promote NTNU’s work and values.
Let’s start with the beginning. I was born in Úbeda (Jaén), although I took my bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. My studies provided me with a solid technical background which has been essential to channel my creativity towards pragmatic solutions.
Early on in my career, I developed a great curiosity about the energy sector, and I started to wonder what could be done to make it more resilient, sustainable and affordable. Thanks to the Erasmus + exchange program I could spent my last university year in Norway, where I specialized in energy and process engineering at NTNU. During all these years, I have not only fully immersed myself on a subject that I felt incredibly comfortable working with, but also had a close understanding and was given the necessary tools to understand the current situation of the energy market, its operation, development and challenges.
How would you describe the impact of your year at NTNU?
I chose to specialize in energy technologies during my stay at NTNU because it allowed me to combine three of today’s most important and challenging fields: Energy, Efficiency and Sustainability. During my year there, I got deeply involved in the subject. I must admit that my experience at NTNU was the start of a new chapter. I finally understood what being an engineer meant.
The success of this experience was mostly due to the people I worked with in the Department of Energy and Process Engineering. They taught me all they knew, they encouraged me to challenge myself.
Maybe the best thing about NTNU was to be able to really work on a project that I designed and planned on my own. I found myself working with great motivation as I was able to shape it with freedom. I learnt a lot about the sector and this experience gave me personal and professional growth. I cannot thank them enough for the time, support, and patience they had with me, especially when developing my bachelor’s thesis. I had so much to learn and they were always available and willing to help! I am still in contact with some of them and we follow each other’s work. They are very active and publish very interesting papers.
What is your current position and role?
I am currently working as Hydrogen and Gas Quality Adviser within the System Operation Business area at ENTSOG (European Network of Transmission System Operators of Gas). The role of ENTSOG is to facilitate and enhance cooperation between national gas transmission system operators (TSOs) across Europe. ENTSOG ensures the development of a pan-European transmission system in line with the European Union energy goals.
One of the key activities of my role is to facilitate the decarbonisation of the gas grid by using renewable, low-carbon and decarbonized gases (such as hydrogen) in a sustainable and affordable way. My role also includes leadership and support to the development of the EU market rules. I participate in processes led by the European Commission, ACER, CEN and other European authorities. Yet, the best thing about this position is being able to work in a field which I like and enjoy and being surrounded by a great team who makes the day-to-day work much easier.
Why is hydrogen becoming so important now?
Hydrogen is not something new. It has always been used as feedstock in some industrial processes. However, the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier to store energy or even decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors has gained a lot of attention in the last few years, especially among policy makers.
Clean hydrogen is expected to play a key role in the decarbonisation of sectors where other alternatives might not be technically feasible or be more expensive. For instance, it can provide the mobility sector and industry with emission-free energy and feedstock. It can also serve the function of long-term and large-scale storage, providing flexibility to the energy system and decreasing renewable electricity curtailment. Gas grids can play a major role here, since they are already existing assets which can transport hydrogen along Europe in a cost-effective manner when retrofitted or adapted.
Tell us more about the different types of Hydrogen: ‘grey’, ‘blue’, ‘green’?
Hydrogen is the most abundant element on Earth, but it rarely exists alone. Therefore, hydrogen is produced by extracting it from its compound (e.g. water). Nowadays, hydrogen is mainly produced through highly carbon-emitting pathways, like steam methane reforming (SMR). The hydrogen obtained from this method is known as ‘grey’ hydrogen as the process still produces C02. ‘Blue’ hydrogen is the name given to the Hydrogen when Carbon Capture and Storage are combined with the SMR process, allowing great emission savings.
The ‘game-changer’ is the so-called ‘green’ hydrogen, which is produced through electrolysis from water using renewable electricity. To illustrate the big momentum that ‘green’ hydrogen has, 2019 was a record year for electrolysis capacity becoming operational, and several significant announcements were made for the coming years.
In Europe, what is the main challenge faced by the industry of the Hydrogen?
I would say that ‘green’ hydrogen production costs still need to be competitive enough in order to see a massive deployment of clean hydrogen in Europe. The H2 Strategy published by the European Commission in July 2020 already includes some good recommendations and plans that should help overcome the price gap between 'grey' and 'green' hydrogen.
Does current EU legislation ease and support the deployment of the Hydrogen value chain?
Long-term policies, strategies and having the appropriate regulatory framework in place are all key for the development of an EU hydrogen economy. Great investments are necessary, but investors need the confidence that these investments will be profitable for decades to come.
Although low-carbon hydrogen production is scaling up in Europe, more efforts are required if EU wants to consolidate as the global leader of hydrogen technologies. R&D is crucial to increase the competitiveness of hydrogen technologies. Governments have a central role to play to support innovative projects, facilitate the knowledge sharing between private and public institutions, fund dedicated pilot projects, train specialists to handle hydrogen equipment, inform consumers on hydrogen benefits, etc.
What would be your tips to students who would like to develop their professional careers in the hydrogen field?
This is a very good question that I asked myself some time ago and could not find a straightforward answer. As I mentioned earlier, I specialized in renewable energies but there was nothing in the curriculum about renewable gases. Thanks to NTNU I discovered the great value of CO2 as refrigerant. This widened my perspective about how the role of gases could evolve, but I couldn’t find anything related to that topic here in Spain.
Fortunately, there are great free resources online, we just need to find a topic that motivates us. Although some people argue that it is not the same as physical lectures, for me it was the only way to learn about hydrogen. Therefore, my recommendation would be to start with online free courses. They should be basic enough to set the foundations of what hydrogen technologies can do today and may also awaken your curiosity about what is to come (which is very exciting, by the way!).
I haven’t yet heard of any dedicated master program on hydrogen technologies. Some time ago, a colleague of mine and I were thinking of creating a dedicated hydrogen course, and that is something I would really enjoy doing. Stay tuned, and you could be the first ones to know about it!
Photo: Rosa Puentes