Hydrogen Generation

For small-scale power generation, it is anticipated that hydrogen fuel cells will be playing a greater part in the economy, initially in a static form in industry or as a means of storing energy. The hydrogen would be generated by non-carbon electricity. Hydrogen can be produced in many ways, e. g. renewable energy sources such as hydro, solar, wind power, electrolysis, biomass and by nuclear energy. Nuclear power could be used to provide electricity for electrolytic hydrogen production. Fuel cells could also be used to back up intermittent renewables. Fuel cells are an area of active research (N. B. in addition to hydrogen, it should be noted that biofuels are another possible option for fuel cells).

Transport is still a major contributor to air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions (about 30%). For transport, hydrogen could be increasingly used for fuelling public service vehicle fleets and utility vehicles and is, therefore required as a primary source. It could possibly be used in the car market where hybrid internal/combustion/electric vehicles would be commonplace in the car and light goods sectors. N. B. For these there is also likely to be a substantial and increasing use of low carbon biofuels. (It is worth noting that other innovative technologies are being investigated for transport, e. g. vehicles powered with batteries that can be charged by electromagnetic induction from metal plates buried in the road at selected stops.)

There is an increasing interest in hydrogen as an energy system, produced from a carbon dioxide free process (The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, &, Millbank, London, 2002). Hydrogen may have a number of widespread applications as a fuel for road transport, distributed heat and power generation and for energy storage. The most likely use for hydrogen in the UK and in other countries, is for transport, for fuelling fleet vehicles and buses. The Energy Saving Trust (EST) (The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, &, Millbank, London, 2002) refers to the use of hydrogen in fuel cell vehicles as ‘the most promising option for zero carbon road transport’. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), an UK think-tank and the Carbon Trust, a non-profit company set up by Government to take a lead on low carbon innovation in the UK, are supporting the case for a high-level strategic approach towards developing a hydrogen economy (The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, &, Millbank, London, 2002).

There are a number of international initiatives towards developing the hydrogen economy including IEA, EC and OECD activities (http://www. iea. org/workshop/2003/ hydrogen). There are major international activities in train, the EC has announced a large programme on hydrogen and renewable technologies, the US is supporting a five-year programme on hydrogen, fuel cells and related infrastructures and the Japanese have substantially increased their level of activity on hydrogen research since 1995 (http:// www. iea. org/workshop/2003/hydrogen).

The EC has set up a high-level Group to assess the prospects for using hydrogen and fuel cells in transport and overall energy policy (http://www. world-nuclear. org/news/2002/ wd_oct18.htm). The EU Clean Urban Transport for Europe programme aims to provide fuel cell buses in 10 European cities in the near future, including 3 in London (The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, &, Millbank, London, 2002). Also there is a European Integrated Hydrogen Project (EIHP) which aims to create a harmonisation of necessary legislation in the EU for hydrogen safety, infrastructure and standardisation (http://www. world-nuclear. org/news/2002/wd_oct18.htm).

In the UK, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) which funds a UK hydrogen energy network, also promotes hydrogen research (The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, &, Millbank, London, 2002). There are calls for a dedicated programme to co-ordinate and support UK research initiatives and support demonstration projects. The use of hydrogen as a fuel for buses is being pursued in the Cambridge Urban Solar Hydrogen Economy Realisation Project (The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, &, Millbank, London, 2002). Hydrogen fuel cells are being developed for local heating and energy supply applications.

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