It’s been a long time since things were moving forward at the pace they have been in recent months. And it has been just as long since the mood was that optimistic in the energy sector. Wherever you look, you feel as if a new chapter has begun. It certainly feels a lot different than past times of doom and gloom in the fuel cell and hydrogen industry.
In the fall of 2018, the German government announced it would provide about EUR 6.4 billion between 2018 and 2022 under its 7th Energy Research Program. This is around 45 percent more than what it allocated to the prior program from 2013 through 2017. The new budget reportedly includes funds for living laboratories and projects involving fuel cells, energy storage, hydrogen technologies and energy systems integration.
The idea of using hydrogen as energy storage entered the political mainstream a long time ago. The coalition agreement between the Christian and the Social Democrats in Germany includes several direct references to hydrogen and fuel cells, while a few other parties have made the technologies part of their platforms as well.
In many communities, electric buses have been the latest innovation to grab the attention of passengers and mayors alike. While passengers are just thrilled about the quiet and smooth ride, mass transit companies are looking for businesses that can deliver these types of vehicles, especially fuel cell ones, as quickly as possible. However, few options are for sale, despite a boost in demand.
Among all German states, Brandenburg has had the most trouble striking the right balance between its fossil and renewable sources of energy. Many jobs in the south of state depend on lignite mining, while large wind farms have been put up in the north and around Berlin. The state government, a coalition of The Left and the SPD, has been trying for years to find an equitable solution to its very own energy dilemma.
January saw the publication of the Fuel Cell Industry Review 2018, including market figures and analyses. The review was created by the team of E4tech, which has contacted fuel cell companies once a year since 2014 to provide an independent overview of the fuel cell market based on aggregated shipment numbers. Below are some excerpts from its report.
In 2018, fuel cell system sales continued to grow. In all, companies shipped 74,000 systems, around 4,000 more than in 2017.
The aim of the EU-funded HyLaw project is to promote the launch of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies by giving stakeholders a detailed overview of current regulations and showing political decision makers where the sector is faced with legal barriers to growth. Coordinated by Hydrogen Europe, it is the EU’s first project that focuses on regulatory issues concerning hydrogen production and sale.
The MethQuest project investigates the creation of methane from renewable sources of energy and its use in stationary systems and vehicles by studying the entire value chain of the gas. This holistic approach promises technological advances in areas that range from production and methods such as electrolysis to the required infrastructure and end use of the gas.
Efforts to transform the energy sector have so far focused on increasing renewable generation capacity to lay the foundation for a future energy system. This has made the use of electricity in the heat and transportation markets all the more important, since electric power is an efficient means of generating and using renewable sources of energy.
Measuring the quality of hydrogen is often, unjustifiably, viewed as time-consuming and expensive. Rather, it helps to better understand and improve technical processes. The path to regular quality measurements of hydrogen is being intensely debated as we speak.