A Growing Number of Hydrogen Conferences

by Robert L. Mauro, Executive Vice President, National Hydrogen Association

During the 9th Annual U.S. Hydrogen Meeting, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (a Democrat from Iowa), challenged the hydrogen community to get the word out to the energy community at-large about hydrogen as an energy carrier. This is part of a larger effort to develop public acceptance of hydrogen use. The goal is to have those outside of the hydrogen community seriously consider hydrogen as a option when discussing alternate energy, alternate energy legislation and tax credits, and developing scenarios for energy futures.

In order for this to occur, the community must make a credible case for hydrogen and speak with one voice. This was done in the Hydrogen Commercialization Plan, but any journey lasting 30 or so years begins with actions that can be taken today. Today’s activities are interim steps toward attaining near-term hydrogen achievements in one to five years. This is the role of the Implementation Plan discussed below. The point of raising it is that, for a hydrogen economy to be realized, the hydrogen community must grow and the energy community must be educated and recognize hydrogen’s role in the near-term alternative energy mix as each of the NHA Hydrogen Commercialization Plan’s near-term goals are achieved.

The first steps in this process are being taken. First in the hydrogen community itself, the Canadian Hydrogen Association has moved from biannual to annual meetings. Second, the various European Hydrogen Associations under the leadership of the Germans are forming one European Hydrogen Association.

In addition, a number of non-energy organizations are holding meetings on hydrogen energy. The American Chemical Society, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the Society of Automotive Engineers are holding meeting on the use of hydrogen, to name a few.

The NHA welcomes their interest in hydrogen. It is important that attendees at these meetings will come to future NHA meetings and participate in our codes and standards and other activities. They must participate in the process of making hydrogen energy a reality. The best method of introducing them to this process is through attendance at the NHA’s annual meeting.

No sector of society can move forward in hydrogen without other sectors and the necessary infrastructure also moving forward. The NHA and its annual meeting are forums at which various interests working in hydrogen present their positions and have those positions discussed, critiqued, and synthesized. In that spirit, we welcome additional hydrogen meetings and the cross-fertilization of new and existing ideas and activities that affect the hydrogen community.

NHA’s Hydrogen Implementation Plan

In 1996, the National Hydrogen Association developed the Hydrogen Commercialization Plan that laid out areas of emphasis with long- and short-term goals for hydrogen. In 1997, this plan was adopted by the membership of the NHA at its annual membership meeting. While not a perfect document, it provides a framework that unified the hydrogen community’s purpose. This enabled the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to adjust its Hydrogen Program in a manner that was complementary to the major thrusts of the industry’s plan.

Some of the near-term goals of the Hydrogen Commercialization Plan are beyond the resources and scope of DOE’s Hydrogen Program and require strategic partnering with industry, academia, local government, and others. To address this shortfall, a series of workshops were held on the Implementation Plan to first identify where we are and where we will be if DOE’s Hydrogen Program is funded to the level expected.

This was compared to the near-term goals of the commercialization plan in the first workshop. The second workshop focused on bridging the gap between where the Hydrogen Community is today and what is needed to meet the near-term goals of the Hydrogen Commercialization Plan. The combination of these scenarios and the roles that the industry, local government, academia, and the federal government play in achieving these goals, as well as the context in which this occurs is the basis for the NHA Hydrogen Implementation Plan. The initial draft document is out for comment in order for it to become a consensus document that the hydrogen community can embrace. It will be considered in revised form by the membership of the NHA at its annual membership meeting on April 7th. On approval by the membership, the NHA will promote the paths described in the document with DOE, other interested parties, and the larger energy community.

Like the Hydrogen Commercialization Plan, the Hydrogen Implementation Plan is a living document. In 1999, the NHA will revise the relevance of the Hydrogen Commercialization Plan recommendations in overcoming commercialization barriers in light of technical progress and changes in institutional hydrogen issues that have occurred since 1996. The NHA will also be considering how to incorporate into the Hydrogen Implementation Plan those surviving and modified recommendations into practical methods of making the near-term goals of the Hydrogen Commercialization Plan more achievable.

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