The energy challenge
Worldwide demand for energy is growing whilst reserves of fossil fuels, our primary energy source today, are diminishing. Current technology used to produce energy from fossil fuels also produces carbon dioxide – a major contributor to climate change.
Europe needs a clean, safe, reliable and secure energy supply that can support a sustainable high quality of life. Future energy supply should mitigate the effects of climate change, while not producing harmful emissions, and helping to reduce Europe’s dependence on imported energy sources.
The transition to such an energy supply also needs to be achieved without causing a negative impact on the European economy. In fact, it should promote both growth and opportunity, which is why hydrogen technology is included as part of the Quickstart Programme under the European Initiative for Growth – an initiative aimed at promoting EU competitiveness and stimulating economic growth.
Moving forward, with care Taking Europe away from its 20th century dependence on fossil fuels to an era powered by hydrogen and electricity will require careful strategic planning. A gradual transition will be required and a preliminary European road map has been sketched out for the production and distribution of hydrogen – as well as fuel cells and hydrogen systems – with the goal of moving to a hydrogen-oriented economy by 2050.
Europe has a strong position in research, development and deployment of the key technologies essential for a hydrogen economy.
Nevertheless, the size of the challenge means that global collaboration is required on research. International collaborative efforts between Europe, America and Asian countries are already being initiated in key areas of research.
The combination of hydrogen and electricity represents a promising way to achieve an emissions-free future based on sustainable energy. Neither hydrogen nor electricity are primary energy sources – such as coal or gas – but they are energy carriers.
Together they could provide a pathway for a gradual transition from a fossil fuel economy to a virtually carbon-free energy future using the key emerging technology of fuel cells for interconversion between hydrogen and electricity. This will facilitate the increasing penetration of renewable energy sources, such as wind power and solar, and other efficient fossil-fuel energy technologies with carbon dioxide capture and storage techniques.