Working towards a balanced energy mix: What role for hydrogen?

Hydrogen can store and deliver energy in a widely useable form, and it is one of the most promising alternative fuels for future energy applications. It is possible to produce it pollution-free, without carbon dioxide emissions and it decreases dependence on dwindling oil reserves.

In the Clean Planet for All strategy, hydrogen and fuel cell technologies have been identified among the new energy technologies needed to achieve significant greenhouse gas cuts by 2050. The main aim of the ‘Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking’ is to enable commercial deployment by 2020. In future, the European Commission will channel support for fuel cell and hydrogen research and demonstration through the JU.

During the Austrian Presidency, EU energy ministers signed an initiative to collectively aim to maximise the great potentials of sustainable hydrogen technology for the decarbonisation of multiple sectors, the energy system and for the long-term energy security of the EU.

However, significant development is needed before hydrogen can be exploited in the same way as conventional fossil fuels.

Where to actually source hydrogen is also on the agenda, as the fuel can either be ‘green’ or ‘blue’. Green is sourced from excess renewable energy while blue uses natural gas in conjunction with carbon-capture-storage.

These considerations mean that a coherent and coordinated European strategy is required, which encompasses research and development, demonstration, application and standardisation.

EURACTIV organised a workshop to discuss the role of hydrogen in helping the EU reach its long-term energy and climate goals.

Questions discussed included:

  • What progress has been made in the monitoring and assessment of demonstration projects where hydrogen is used to power vehicles?
  • Has hydrogen production, distribution and refuelling infrastructure been fully demonstrated in test cases?
  • Are safety, reliability, training and public acceptance all fully resolved elements in the hydrogen debate?
  • What scope for further innovation in fuel cell vehicles of different types: scooters, wheelchairs, cargo-bikes, small trucks and minibuses?
  • How important is sectoral integration through collaboration with other players?

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