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Non-nuclear energy

High Level Group on Hydrogen and Fuel Cells

Fission and radiation protection

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.
Commissioner Busquin with a hydrogen powered bus (Courtesy of Kevin Drake)
Commissioner Busquin with a hydrogen powered bus (Courtesy of Kevin Drake)

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 R&D is uncoordinated, under-funded and fragmented.

What are its aims and objectives?

The primary aim of the group is to produce, by mid-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.
  • R&D – 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 icon [9 Kb] 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
  • User associations

The Group itself has met twice, in October 2002 and April 2003.

A report "Hydrogen Energy and Fuel Cells - A vision of our future" PDF icon [490  Kb] has been prepared by nominated representatives from the organisations of the HLG members, supported by the Commission, using information gathered from a broad range of sources, including specially commissioned studies, research projects and external data and reports. The comments received from the public consultation on the preliminary draft report have also been taken into account.

The report was produced as a communication to the major European conference "The hydrogen economy - a bridge to sustainable energy", held in Brussels on 16-17 June 2003. The proceedings of the conference, including presentations and posters are now available on the Community R&D Information Service – CORDIS.

Further information about European research in this area can be found at the following pages - Hydrogen and Fuel Cells.