High level group on hydrogen will be more than a talking shop, says member

October 14, 2002

Brussels, 11 Oct 2002

The new high level group for hydrogen and fuel cells, launched on 10 October, 'won't just be a talking shop,' Mr I Stepheson, a member of the group, has told CORDIS News.

The high level group was launched in Brussels by EU Commission Vice President and Commissioner for Energy and Transport Loyola de Palacio and Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. The group, comprising representatives from industry, research and national governments, is charged with assessing the potential benefits of using hydrogen and fuel cells in EU transport, energy production and other areas and preparing the way for more focused EU action in this field.

Mr Stephenson referred to the group as a 'timely initiative' and 'clearly something that cuts across national divisions.' He was also optimistic that the group will be influential, saying that the politicians seem to have a genuine desire to establish a future energy policy. 'It sounds like they'll take us seriously, so it won't just be a talking shop,' said Mr Stephenson.

Commissioner Busquin would have reinforced this perception with his promise to the group that 'your advice will certainly be fed into our framework programmes and other policy initiatives. Our expectation and challenge to you is that this high level group will define the vision of what is needed to develop and exploit these promising technologies.'

Ms de Palacio too voiced her support for the group, saying 'I will attach much importance to the outcome of this group, it will be the heart of our forthcoming policy.'

Mr Busquin told CORDIS News that his ultimate goal for such initiatives is 'always the same - the better organisation of R&D in Europe.'

The group must address several questions, said Mr Busquin: What are the barriers to creating a win-win situation for industry and Europe's citizens in the move towards sustainable energy? What technologies are required, and how long will it take to develop them? How can the right framework for commercialisation be created? Where would the EC's resources best be used? How can the innovation pool provided by small and medium sized enterprises best be used?

'Our hope is that the vision report that we ask you to develop could become the standard reference document for communicating to politicians at all levels, to industry and researchers, that we need structured RTD [research and technological development] efforts, focus, concentration and political will, if Europe is to lead the way to sustainable energy.'

Global demand for electricity is expected to double by 2015. The threat of a possible fluctuation in the price of crude oil is another reason to focus efforts on developing alternative energy supplies. 'The threat of market volatility should not be accepted as inevitable,' said Commissioner de Palacio.

Total European public funding for fuel cell research is estimated at between 50 and 60 million euro per year, a figure that is only one third of that in the USA, and one quarter of that in Japan. 'In the United States and Japan we see clear developments towards programmes and strategic alliances around hydrogen and fuel cells. These movements are seeking to bring hydrogen to the market, pushing it towards commercialisation. It is at this level that I think we should concentrate our innovation efforts,' said Ms de Palacio.

For further information on EU hydrogen policy, please consult the following web addresses: http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/energ y/nn/nn_rt_hy3_en.htm http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/energy_tra nsport/index_fr.html

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

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