A Bridge to a Sustainable H2 Energy Future
L. Mauro, Executive Vice President, National Hydrogen Association
NHA staff presented two papers at 1996
World Hydrogen Energy Conference held in Stuttgart, Germany, in June. One
was an update to the paper presented at the Paris WHEC in 1992. The other
was an outline of TTCs approach for developing markets for new renewable
technologies and the relevance of those technologies for hydrogen.
I presented the first paper, A Bridge
to a Sustainable Hydrogen Energy Future: Reassessing the Transition.
The context for the paper is globalization. Global products, global information,
and global environmental issues conspire to create informed groups of individuals
who have a common vision of what an energy system might look like using
hydrogen and electricity as the principal energy carriers. The
vision that emerges is sustainable, renewable, and environmentally preferred
over the current energy mix.
The first bridge initially uses
existing natural gas pipelines to supply hythane (15% hydrogen in natural
gas). The hydrogen can be produced from methane through steam reforming,
a process which will make hydrogen widely available. Experience with hydrogen
then will increase, with technologies like fuel cells for stationary and
vehicle applications and magnetic refrigeration deployed in niche markets
and coming into widespread commercial use. The final phase has hydrogen
rapidly supplanting natural gas for security, environmental, and economic
The second bridge is for locations without a
natural gas infrastructure in place; it is renewable from the start. Using
local energy resources, such as biomass, is the key to its success. Demonstration
of and gaining experience with the technologies for power production and
hydrogen generation are the first stage. The next phase more broadly integrates
production, storage, and use of hydrogen into a system. Finally, standardization
of components and designs will allow all components to interconnect and
operate properly. At this point, there also will be easy access to small-scale
hydrogen liquefaction equipment.
Renewable energy sources are the key to sustainable
hydrogen development. The incremental addition of hydrogen production and
storage to installed renewable technologies is likely to emerge as the path
to energy independence for village power and a bridge to a hydrogen energy
future. Fuel cells are the linchpin that connects renewable systems to meet
electric production, space conditioning, and ground transportation needs.
The second paper, Commercialization Strategies
for Emerging Renewable Energy Technologies, was presented by NHA Vice
President Susan Leach for Technology Transition Corporation (TTC) and was
coauthored by TTC Business Development Manager Wendy Rodenhiser and me.
It is not included in the conference proceedings. The paper identifies future
energy opportunities in transitional economies where renewables are economical
today. The world population in 2020 is projected to reach 8.1 billion and
85% of that population will live in developing economies. In these countries,
economic development and improved living standardsrather than environmental
concernsare the important driving forces.
There is growing interest by utilities in the
use of renewable energy sources. More countries are viewing renewables as
secure, sustainable energy technologies which will allow them to remain
politically and economically independent. The barriers to this expansion
include high start-up costs and inadequate infrastructure. To lower renewable
technology costs requires large increases in energy production volumes.
This ultimately depends on market acceptance by potential buyers. To break
the cycle of developer investments depending on market assurance and markets
being reluctant to buy until cost goals are met, new approaches must be
The paper outlines TTCs approach to this
issue. Strategies used include:
The goal of this approach is the development
of market confidence by having consortia share the technical risk and define
the economics and performance criteria for the technology and its components.
The paper presents TTCs commercialization activities, approach, and
progress in photovoltaic energy, molten carbonate fuel cells, biomass power,
and hydrogen. Among the strategies employed to create early markets for
clean and renewable energy technologies are royalties and declining subsidies
for large volume purchases to market-makers. Government financial and policy
support can assist by stimulating the market and mitigating early risks.
Renewables may not begin with hydrogen but they
cannot succeed without it. The electrified worlds power systems can
accept up to 20% of their energy supplied by intermittent renewables; beyond
that, there are potential energy delivery problems. Renewably produced hydrogen
can serve as a storage mechanism for intermittently produced electricity,
as well as an entrée into transportation fuel. For a renewable energy
source to ever become a major power source, it must be available to meet
any load. Renewably produced hydrogen provides renewables with the flexibility
to meet and follow electrical load on demand.
- collaborative support within the industry to share costs, risks, and
- industry/market-driven initiatives; and
- government support as a catalyst.
©1996. All Rights Reserved. A Publication of
the National Hydrogen Association.
This material may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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