International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy Attendees Discuss Challenges to Making It a Reality
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By Zach Lyman, National Hydrogen Association

The Meridian International Center in Washington D.C. played host to the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy (IPHE) on September 10th.  Organized by the State Department, in close partnership with the Department of Energy and the Department of Transportation, the conference provided an opportunity for the private sector, and academic stakeholders to discuss the coming challenges to making the hydrogen economy a reality. The IPHE initiative aims to help focus limited resources and develop recommendations for the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative.

In one of the most beautiful meeting settings in Washington, Assistant Secretary of State, Carl Ford Jr., welcomed guests by pointing to the administration's commitment to hydrogen and congratulating the IPHE on a successful start thus far.  Opening remarks were provided by Robert Card, Undersecretary of the Department of Energy and Jeffrey Shane Undersecretary for Policy at the Department of Transportation.  Both remarked on the IPHE’s exceptional success bringing together the multi-departmental collaborations in hydrogen.

Morning sessions were convened by David Garman, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in the Department of Energy, who offered his thoughts on the technical and economic challenges to commercial hydrogen production, storage, and infrastructure development. Dr. Donald Paul, VP and CTO at ChevronTexaco, addressed some of these challenges by pointing out that many of the capabilities needed in developing hydrogen infrastructure already exist. He noted that energy companies have traditionally dealt with technologies of distribution for both petroleum and natural gas, and that similar infrastructure will be needed for Hydrogen. Beth Lowery, VP of Environment and Energy at General Motors Corporation followed Dr. Paul, and repeated GM’s desire to take the automobile out of the environmental equation she pointed to GM’s investment in hydrogen as an example.  Dr. Dan Sperling, Director of the Institute for Transportation Studies at UC/Davis finished the session by talking about the need for larger public/private sector relationships when it comes to hydrogen.  Examples ranged from leveraging university research and development capabilities, to the increasing need to enlist firm political commitments on hydrogen investment.

The second session specifically addressed the roles of government and the private sector in establishing successful international hydrogen partnerships.  Led by Tom Gross, a member of the Board of Directors for the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program at the Department of Energy, speaker Angelo Amorelli, Manager of Hydrogen Business Development at BP, discussed lessons learned from the implementation of BP's  current hydrogen partnerships.  Cynthia Verdugo-Peralta shared her experiences as a member of Steering Team of the California Fuel Cell Partnership.  A significant portion of this session was devoted to discussion on the challenges that exist for competitors who collaborate on emerging technologies.  Bob Culver, as the director of FreedomCAR, a joint venture among the Big Three Automakers, addressed those issues.  Citing the success of FreedomCar, Mr. Culver suggested that there was ample room in the development of universal, non-proprietary technologies to make for successful partnerships without compromising competitive advantage in the marketplace.  Following Mr. Culver, Rob Chapman discussed lessons learned from his time as Director of the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) initiative.  Mr. Chapman relayed both the pitfalls and successes of government initiatives and re-stressed the need for sustained political support for multi-year projects.

After a lunch in the pristine gardens outside Meridian Center, Daniel Smith of GE Strategic Market Development spoke on GE's vision of the coming hydrogen economy.  Among the many topics he covered, Mr. Smith spoke on the prominent roll, newly acquired GE Wind, will have in the development of renewable hydrogen for the company. When asked specifically about managing the risk of investment in hydrogen, Mr. Smith replied that it was very difficult to do traditional risk/reward analysis on hydrogen. However, he went on to say that while profit is still down the road, “there is the feeling that GE can’t afford to ignore hydrogen”.  Mr. Amorelli echoed this point when asked about BP’s investment strategies for hydrogen.

With an introduction by Vicky Bailey, Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs at the Department of Energy and opening comments by Larisa Dobriansky, Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Energy Policy, Department of Energy, the afternoon provided attendees with several breakout sessions that dominated the remainder of the meeting.  These sessions were geared toward accessing the expertise in the audience, with the goal of assessing the risks and challenges associated with the coming Hydrogen Economy.

The breakouts were broken down into three sessions:

In anticipation of the meeting, a questionnaire had been sent out to all participants.  The tallied results were used to facilitate the afternoon discussion.  Respondents were asked to categorize themselves according to affiliation (e.g. Government, Industry, Research, Other). Some of the questionnaire responses were surprising:

When asked about codes and standards issues, respondents made the case that they were extremely important. However, the survey also conveyed the overall feeling that currently, code and standard issues were being adequately addressed.  At one point in the meeting, a speaker asked for all people involved in codes in standards to stand up.  He then asked them to take a bow for their hard work.  Survey respondents clearly echoed this sentiment.

When asked about timing in regards to widespread use of hydrogen, responses were remarkably similar:

An interesting split was seen between those Government and Industry respondents in two places:

Assistant Secretary Garman wrapped up the session with some closing thoughts and a look toward the upcoming Ministerial Summit on November 18-21, in Washington DC. At that conference, the IPHE will bring together energy ministers from 15 countries to discuss common areas of interest in, and obstacles to, the hydrogen economy in the fields of research, development and demonstration projects, hydrogen policy and regulation, and the commercialization of hydrogen based energy technologies.  I would urge anyone interested in international hydrogen issues to follow the IPHE closely in the coming year.

More Information on the IPHE:
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