Hydrogen & Fuel Cells (Reviews and Prospects of ICEF 2017 Concurrent Sessions)

Posted by Pierre-Etienne Franc December 13, 2017 Vice President, Advanced Business and Technologies World Business Unit, Air Liquide

Hydrogen technologies have made promising steps in the last years on several fields. On the fields of tangible achievement, fuel cells have increased penetration in stationary applications, as demonstrated by Panasonic, initial vehicle marketing initiatives (both from Toyota, Honda and Hyundai) have shown solid reliability and customer adoption, stations development and infrastructure projects are growing (Germany, California, Japan, Korea), and China has shown a new wave of projects deployment with strong state support (as explained from our expert Chinese panelist). Globally European development has shown steady support of mobility, buses and power to gas applications (as shown by the Exec. Director of the European FCH JU) and Germany is now witnessing the first steps of the use of H2 for trains. IPHE, which gathers the key supporting countries for this technology, has reminded the importance of taking into account national interest in the future development strategies initiated by industries, which interests can be founded on specific criteria which differ from one country to another. During the year, the industry leading players have gathered their interest into the Hydrogen Council, to better voice the need to develop the H2 technologies at scale if we want it to play the role it could play for the energy transition. This gathering, initiated in January with 13 players, is now rich of 27 players among which 18 steering members, from all continents and all key industry verticals. After Davos meeting, the council members have invited the financial community in September 2017 in New York, to show them the first results of a first ever effort to quantify the hydrogen world potential to support the energy transition. Those results have been then disclosed for the first time in a preliminary mode at the ICEF, through a presentation from McKinsey. They show that Hydrogen has the potential to decarbonize up to 6 GT, ie 20% of the CO2 abatement target of COP21 figures, thus representing in 2050 18 % of final energy demand and a significant energy contributor in key industry verticals such as transport (from 15% to 60% market shares based on the different transport segments), industry processes, energy & heat for industry, power storage and conversion, stationary power. The total potential of this molecule could reach 2500 Bn€ of business activity level by 2050, with significant milestones already achievable by 2030, with close to 10 million vehicles on the road and 280 Bn€ of investments.

The panel debated the best way to achieve those ambitious potentials. The need for deployment strategies not being limited to one single country has been reiterated. The need to develop a platform, which the H2 Council could host to select, benchmark and compare the best available supporting regulations and policy programs has been proposed. The importance of moving rapidly to clean hydrogen production solutions has been suggested from the audience. The lack of speed in H2 based vehicles deployments compared to BEV has been questioned. The setup of infrastructure schemes in Japan, following Germany, waiting for other ones to be built in the US, Korea, has been suggested as one of the way forward, along with development of captive fleets initiatives to load faster infrastructures, so as to unlock rapidly the technology potential.

Next steps include the setup of national roadmaps to build a “Hydrogen Package” for the next decade (2020-2030), which, if implemented in different countries at the same time, would give the proper space and visibility to the industry players. The second critical element to make this a success is now to go for scale in any of the segment verticals (full transport infrastructure, large power to gas projects, large steel or industry conversion to hydrogen, massive stationary deployments….). If regulations, scale projects and financing tools adapted to support those massive investment to shift from fossil to low carbon investments are being aligned, the next decade will be the decade of the hydrogen economy, starting with Tokyo Olympics !!