Brussels, 05 Dec 2002
What is the HLG on Hydrogen and Fuel Cells?
The High Level Group on Hydrogen and Fuel cells was formally launched in Brussels on 10th October 2002 by the Vice President of the European Commission Mrs Loyola de Palacio, responsible for Energy and Transport, and Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. It brings together top-level stakeholders from across Europe representing a broad cross section of interests, with the aim of formulating an integrated EU vision on the possible role that hydrogen and fuel cells could play in achieving sustainable energy. It will also address what would be required to achieve global leadership in this field in the next 20 to 30 years.
Why was it set up?
There are a number of compelling reasons why Europe must work harder to develop and deploy hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.
Sustainable Development - Hydrogen and electricity are expected to play an increasingly important role as interchangeable energy carriers in a future sustainable energy economy. Together they provide a promising transition pathway towards gradually becoming less dependent on fossil fuels, reducing greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions, and increasing the contribution of renewable energy sources. In the long term, hydrogen could play a key role in adapting energy supply to energy demand as it has the potential for large-scale, even seasonal, energy storage.
Security and Reliability of Supply – The EU currently imports 50% of its coal, oil and gas; if nothing is done, this figure will rise to 70% in 20-30 years time. Hydrogen would open access to diversified primary energy sources and could therefore help us to reduce our dependence on imports of fossil fuels, thereby contributing to a dynamic and sustainable energy economy in Europe.
International Competitiveness – Various market studies forecast that the potential market for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in the future may be very large. At present the world leaders in the field are the US and Japan, where well financed, co-ordinated programmes to develop and market the necessary technologies are already in place. In contrast European hydrogen and fuel cell research and development is uncoordinated, under-funded and fragmented.
What are its aims and objectives?
The primary aim of the group is to produce, by April 2003, a "foresight", or vision report on the theme "Hydrogen and Fuel Cells – the Bridge to Sustainable Energy?" This should set out what is required to ensure a leading role for Europe in a future hydrogen economy. The group will focus on a number of ways of achieving this, and the report will address –
Defining Scenarios – To draw up a cohesive report, it is necessary to have a clear vision of the main ways hydrogen and fuel cell technologies will be used in the future. An awareness of the impact gradually moving to a hydrogen economy will have on the economy, industry and society is also needed.
Research and Development – A co-ordinated research strategy is vital if the EU wants to develop products which will be commercially viable in international markets. Much of this research will focus on the technology itself, improving efficiency and performance, ensuring safety etc. However socio-economic research is also necessary to understand the workings of global markets, and to develop policy frameworks which will facilitate the market penetration of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. The report should make recommendations on how to develop a more strategic approach to research in Europe.
Deployment Strategies – There are many technical and non-technical barriers to the commercialisation of hydrogen and fuel cells. Pilot demonstration projects can help to convince potential users of the reliability of the technologies, and reveal areas where improvements are still needed.
How does it carry out its work?
In addition to Vice President de Palacio and Commissioner Busquin, the group is made up of 19 prominent stakeholders [PDF- file 9Kb] from a variety of backgrounds and from different countries.
Various relevant industries, including energy producers, energy distributors, component manufacturers and representatives of the transport sector.
National research centres and academe
Policy makers and public authorities
The Group itself is scheduled to meet twice. At the first meeting on October 10th 2002 the Mandate and Terms of Reference were agreed. During the next six months, the report itself will be prepared by nominated representatives from the organisations of the members, supported by the Commission. Information will be gathered from a broad range of sources, including specially commissioned studies, research projects, the work of the nominated representatives and external data and reports.
A draft of the foresight report will be distributed to the group members in March 2003. The Group will then meet for a second time at the end of April 2003 to discuss this and so produce the final version of the document, which will be officially released in June 2003.
How can organisations not represented in the High Level Group contribute?
In order to have a manageable and reasonably balanced group, the membership has been limited to 19 members. However, the group is very conscious of the need to consult on a wider basis, so as to ensure the final vision report represents, as far as is reasonable, the views of all interested stakeholders. The group will therefore seek to establish an open consultation process and will publish an early draft version of the report, upon which interested parties will be invited to comment.
Further information about European research in this area can be found at the following pages – Hydrogen and Fuel Cells