Scenario Planning by the DOE Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel

by Jim Ohi,  Principal Engineer, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
As many of the readers of the NHA News know, Congress established the Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel (HTAP) in 1992 to advise the Secretary of Energy on the implementation and conduct of the Department of Energy (DOE) Hydrogen Program. HTAP advises the Secretary on investment strategy and priorities for the research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) of advanced hydrogen energy technologies and on the economic, technical, and environmental consequences of deploying hydrogen energy systems.

The Hydrogen Future Act of 1996 further required that HTAP analyze the effectiveness of the DOE Hydrogen Program and make recommendations to improve the Program for inclusion in a report to Congress by the Secretary. One of the HTAP’s recommendations was that the Program undertake scenario planning to help develop a rationale for a robust RD&D program. Such a rationale would help to link the HTAP’s long-term vision of hydrogen (along with electricity) as one of two principal energy carriers in the 21st century with specific RD&D projects funded by Program. Scenario planning is a tool that can help DOE establish a long-term strategic context for its year-to-year investments in hydrogen RD&D. Scenario planning will also help HTAP articulate a compelling perception of a hydrogen energy future for government leaders and the public.

HTAP Scenario Planning Activities
In early 1999, HTAP established the Scenario Planning Committee to help guide scenario planning and analysis activities conducted by the Hydrogen Program. The Committee conducted two workshops with invited experts on scenario planning and hydrogen energy systems. In October 1999, the Committee held the first workshop in Sacramento, California, U.S.A. At this workshop, participants derived preliminary “storylines” that identified and structured the key driving forces and uncertainties from which focused scenarios of hydrogen energy futures could be developed. According to the participants, the key driving forces that will determine the role of hydrogen in plausible energy futures are hydrogen technology development and the interplay between market forces and social concerns. The key uncertainties are the nature and rate of hydrogen technology development and how social concerns about, for example, environmental quality and energy security, affect competitive market forces that determine fuel choice and commercial success of advanced technologies. These driving forces and uncertainties were distilled into two “axes” that could be used to create “quadrants” of potential futures that provide labels and beginning points for storylines.

The Committee refined the storylines within each quadrant formed by the intersection of the two axes as shown below:

At the second workshop held in November 2000 in Thousand Palms, California, U.S.A., a smaller group of participants with specific interests and expertise in hydrogen energy systems was asked to use the four quadrants as launching points for further discussion and elaboration. The first step was to draw for each quadrant “end-state scenarios” in all their social, political, economic, and environmental details as time permitted. Because the future will not unfold according to one storyline and to the exclusion of the others but will, in all probability, wind and twist its way through all four (and other) storylines, the participants also examined “trajectories” that involve more than one end-state and explored a dynamic set of scenarios that cross and weave among the four quadrants. With further work after the workshop by the HTAP Scenario Planning Committee, these fully elaborated end-states and trajectories will be developed into a set of scenarios.

Next Steps
The HTAP Scenario Planning Committee will synthesize the insights obtained from the two workshops and prepare more detailed, focused scenarios for hydrogen energy futures that are guided by the HTAP vision. For example, depending on the outputs of the workshop, the scenarios could be based on an elaboration of the four end-states and/or one or more trajectories to attain the HTAP vision. As part of the public outreach effort, a paper outlining the scenario planning process conducted by the Committee and the focused scenarios developed to date will be presented at the annual meeting of the National Hydrogen Association in March 2001.

After revision, the scenarios will be adopted by HTAP and transmitted to DOE. HTAP will assist DOE in planning and conducting a Strategic Response Workshop in the Spring or early Summer of 2001 to examine the Program’s RD&D portfolio in the context of the HTAP scenarios. The purpose of this workshop will be to draw out more fully the R&D implications of the scenarios and to develop recommendations to the DOE on a strategic context and priorities for its hydrogen R&D portfolio.

The hydrogen community has been working closely with the international standards bodies, especially ISO/TC-197 (the technical committee on hydrogen within the International Organization of Standardization) to create international standards. It is also necessary now to work with the US DOT on these UN recommendations. Why? The UN Committee of Experts may adopt an international standard as is, with modification, or not at all. It is important that the rationale for decisions made in the international efforts is provided for the benefit of the UN committee.

The HTAP Scenario Planning Committee is co-chaired by Hank Wedaa and Mounir Kamal. Committee members are Helena Chum, Mike Hainsselin, Dave Nahmias, Roberta Nichols, and John O’Sullivan. Programmatic support is provided by Chris Bordeaux, Sig Gronich, and Neil Rossmeissl of the DOE Hydrogen Program. Technical support is provided by Merwin Brown, Carol Hammel, Eileen Kalim, Maggie Mann, Jim Ohi, and Cathy Gregoire Padró of NREL. We also acknowledge the participants of both workshops for providing insight and technical expertise to the HTAP scenario planning effort.

The NHA acts as an information source and facilitator in the hydrogen safety discussion. Industry is committed to the actions necessary to achieve the acceptance of hydrogen as a commercial energy carrier. I look forward to building a relationship with the US DOT and the UN Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods to develop international model recommendations that allow the safe, intermodal transport of hydrogen in international commerce.

©2001. All Rights Reserved. A Publication of the National Hydrogen Association.
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