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The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers, and R&D Needs
ture and storage in the Office of Fossil Energy, are important, but they are mentioned only casually in the plan. The development of an overall DOE program will require better integration across all DOE programs.
Second, the plan’s priorities are unclear, as they are lost within the myriad of activities that are proposed. The general budget for DOE’s hydrogen program is contained in the appendix of the plan, but the plan provides no dollar numbers at the project level, even for existing projects and programs. The committee found it difficult to judge the priorities and the go/ no-go decision points for each of the R&D areas.
Recommendation ES-9. The Department of Energy should continue to develop its hydrogen research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) plan to improve the integration and balance of activities within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; the Office of Fossil Energy (including programs related to carbon sequestration); the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science, and Technology; and the Office of Science. The committee believes that, overall, the production, distribution, and dispensing portion of the program is probably underfunded, particularly because a significant fraction of appropriated funds is already earmarked. The committee understands that of the $78 million appropriated for hydrogen technology for FY 2004 in the Energy and Water appropriations bill (Public Law 108-137), $37 million is earmarked for activities that will not particularly advance the hydrogen initiative. The committee also believes that the hydrogen program, in an attempt to meet the extreme challenges set by senior government and DOE leaders, has tried to establish RD&D activities in too many areas, creating a very diverse, somewhat unfocused program. Thus, prioritizing the efforts both within and across program areas, establishing milestones and go/no-go decisions, and adjusting the program on the basis of results are all extremely important in a program with so many challenges. This approach will also help determine when it is appropriate to take a program to the demonstration stage. And finally, the committee believes that the probability of success in bringing the United States to a hydrogen economy will be greatly increased by partnering with a broader range of academic and industrial organizations—possibly including an international focus5—and by establishing an independent program review process and board.
Recommendation ES-10. There should be a shift in the hydrogen program away from some development areas and toward exploratory work—as has been done in the area of hydrogen storage. A hydrogen economy will require a number of technological and conceptual breakthroughs. The Department of Energy program calls for increased funding in some important exploratory research areas such as hydrogen storage and photoelectrochemical hydrogen production. However, the committee believes that much more exploratory research is needed. Other areas likely to benefit from an increased emphasis on exploratory research include delivery systems, pipeline materials, electrolysis, and materials science for many applications. The execution of such changes in emphasis would be facilitated by the establishment of DOE-sponsored academic energy research centers. These centers should focus on interdisciplinary areas of new science and engineering—such as materials research into nanostructures, and modeling for materials design—in which there are opportunities for breakthrough solutions to energy issues.
Recommendation ES-11. As a framework for recommending and prioritizing the Department of Energy program, the committee considered the following:
Technologies that could significantly impact U.S. energy security and carbon dioxide emissions,
The timescale for the evolution of the hydrogen economy,
Technology developments needed for both the transition period and the steady state,
Externalities that would decelerate technology implementation, and
The comparative advantage of the DOE in research and development of technologies at the pre-competitive stage.
The committee recommends that the following areas receive increased emphasis:
Fuel cell vehicle development. Increase research and development (R&D) to facilitate breakthroughs in fuel cell costs and in durability of fuel cell materials, as well as breakthroughs in on-board hydrogen storage systems;
Distributed hydrogen generation. Increase R&D in small-scale natural gas reforming, electrolysis, and new concepts for distributed hydrogen production systems;
Infrastructure analysis. Accelerate and increase efforts in systems modeling and analysis for hydrogen delivery, with the objective of developing options and helping guide R&D in large-scale infrastructure development;
Carbon sequestration and FutureGen. Accelerate development and early evaluation of the viability of carbon capture and storage (sequestration) on a large scale because of its implications for the long-term use of coal for hydrogen production. Continue the FutureGen Project as a high-priority task; and
Carbon dioxide-free energy technologies. Increase emphasis on the development of wind-energy-to-hydrogen as an important technology for the hydrogen transition period and potentially for the longer term. Increase exploratory and fundamental research on hydrogen production by photobiological, photoelectrochemical, thin-film solar, and nuclear heat processes.
Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, joined by ministers representing 14 nations and the European Commission, signed an agreement on November 20, 2003, to formally establish the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy.