Brussels, 19 Mar 2004
The Commission is currently awarding 16 contracts, worth nearly 100 million euro, for research projects on hydrogen and fuel cells, following the first call for proposals in this area under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).
With EU funding for these projects being matched by an equivalent amount of private investment, the Commission has described the projects as 'the initial phase' of the Quick Start initiative for hydrogen production and use, set up at the end of 2003 by Commission Vice President Loyola de Palacio and Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin.
'Although hydrogen represents a bridge to a sustainable energy future, it is also a revolutionary technology,' said Mr Busquin. 'It signals major changes in the way we produce, distribute and use energy. Complex transition strategies have to be worked through, involving heavy investments and building consensus between key players.'
After the first FP6 calls for proposals, roughly 62 million euro is being directed towards hydrogen technologies, while around 30 million euro is being made available for research into fuel cells. Initiatives include Integrated Projects aimed at producing hydrogen rich gas from biomass, developing hydrogen-powered internal combustion engines, and producing innovative fuel cell systems and components for road transport applications.
The Commission intends to reinforce this initial group of projects by launching calls for further research initiatives worth a total of 150 million euro as early as July. This next round of projects will constitute the first phase of the Quick Start hydrogen programme, paving the way for large scale public-private partnerships for research and demonstration activities, claims the Commission.
These partnerships will bring together EU and Member State institutions, industry, the research community and other partners, notably the European Investment Bank, in order to leverage finance.
It is foreseen that the knowledge component of the Quick Start initiative will consist of two ten-year partnerships. The first, with a budget of 1.3 billion euro, will explore the potential of producing hydrogen in order to decarbonise fossil fuel use. The second will be a so-called lighthouse project worth 1.5 billion euro, and will explore the practical feasibilities of managing hydrogen energy communities, or the 'hydrogen village'.
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