Brussels, 7 July 2005
European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik today opens new hydrogen and fuel cell testing facilities at the Commission’s Institute for Energy in Petten, the Netherlands. The new facilities are part of the Commission’s endeavour to provide policy-makers and industry with independent evaluation of the performance of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in terms of efficiency, safety, environmental impact and reliability, through simulating lifetime operational conditions of fuel cells and hydrogen fuel tanks. Maria van der Hoeven, Dutch Minister for Education, Culture and Science will also attend the opening.
“We are all aware of the need to find clean, safe and affordable sources of energy, as energy demand rises, and Europe becomes ever more dependent on imported energy,” said Commissioner Potočnik. “The potential of hydrogen is very exciting and can provide one element of a future sustainable energy mix. By developing these new facilities, the Commission is showing its clear commitment to exploring this potential.”
In the last decade or more, the necessity to ensure reliable and safe energy supply has become a matter of strategic importance for Europe, which is heavily dependent on imported energy. This dependence leaves Europe vulnerable to shocks due to fluctuations in oil price, or problems in supply. There is also the environmental impact of fossil fuels to consider. The transition to a hydrogen economy is therefore a key plank of the EU’s long-term energy policy, for a whole range of uses from electricity generation to transport.
When hydrogen is combined with fuel cell technology to generate electricity, the only waste product is water. Hydrogen can be easily stored and transported and, in combination with fuel cells, it can provide energy in remote locations not served by the electricity grid. Hydrogen and fuel cell technologies have the potential to offer cost-effective solutions to problems such as greenhouse gas emissions, air quality and noise.
Scientists at the Institute for Energy will simulate operational lifetime conditions on fuel cells under all foreseeable conditions from arctic to tropical and from motorway driving to forest tracks. Realistic simulation of fast filling (1000 times at less than three minutes per filling) and slow emptying will be investigated.
The Commission will also develop standardised test procedures for the harmonisation of testing procedures and methodologies for fuel cells in transport and stationary applications.
The Commission helped to establish a Technology Platform for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells, bringing together industry, public authorities and the research community to devise an Action Plan, which outlines the concrete steps and measures required to move towards a hydrogen economy.
The Institute for Energy, part of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, provides scientific and technical support for the conception, development, implementation and monitoring of Community policies related to energy. Special emphasis is given to the security of energy supply and sustainable and safe energy production.
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