Hydrogen Is 'Road Forward', Says EU President Prodi

Aim of initiative is to develop a strategy to turn the EU from a fossil fuel-based to a hydrogen-based economy

Published: 21-Jan-2004

lign=justify>A new 'European hydrogen and fuel cell technology platform', sponsored by European Commission President Romano Prodi, Vice-President and Energy and Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio, and Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin, had its first meeting in Brussels on 20 and 21 January.

The aim of the platform is to develop a strategy to turn the EU from a fossil fuel-based to a hydrogen-based economy. Its creation followed an EU expert group report which drew attention to the fact that the EU needs to increase its presently limited home-grown energy resources in order to deal with an ever increasing demand. Hydrogen and fuel cell technologies could play an major part in future sustainable energy systems, helping improve Europe's energy security and air quality, and combating climate change.

Supplementing this new platform, and in the framework of the 'European Growth Initiative', a hydrogen and fuel cell scheme was included in the 'Quickstart' list of transport and research projects, outlined by Mr Prodi towards the end of 2003.

'At the current pace, Europe's oil import dependency is set to grow from around 50 per cent today to 70 per cent or more in 2025. Current trends are clearly unsustainable,' said Mr Prodi. 'We have to act now in order to change them. Our objective is a fully integrated hydrogen economy, based on renewable energy sources, by the middle of the century. These efforts will be successful only if national and European resources, both public and private, are pulled together in a coordinated way. This is why we are launching the European partnership for the hydrogen economy.'

At present, there is no coordinated technological approach in the field, and activities tend to overlap. It is therefore hoped that the new platform will develop an extensive and ambitious European-wide hydrogen and fuel cell strategy. The objective is to transform the EU into the leading world player in the supply and deployment of hydrogen technologies.

The advantage of hydrogen is that it can be produced by a variety of renewable primary energy sources, such as wind, biomass and solar energy. Eventually, it would gradually replace fossil energy, particularly oil, in a variety of fields. Beyond that, fuel cells could potentially radically change the way we produce and consume energy.

The European Union acknowledge the importance of fuel cell research as far back as 1988, when eight million euro was made available for such research over a four year period. The available budget for fuel cell research has now increased significantly, and it is estimated that around 300 million euro will be used for this purpose within FP6.

In November 2003, the Commission launched the European Initiative for Growth to accelerate EU economic recovery. The initiative includes a 'Quick Start Programme', which anticipates a ten-year programme for hydrogen-related research, production and use. This programme, which has the political backing of Member States at the highest level, will comprise a total budget of approximately 2.8 billion euro of public and private funding. The 'European hydrogen and fuel cell technology platform' will form part of this initiative.

For further information on the technology platform, please visit: http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/energy/nn/nn_rt_htp1_en.html

For further information on the European Initiative for Growth and the 'QuickStart' programme, please visit:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/commissioners/prodi/pdf/growth_initiative_en.pdf

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