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ROADS2HYCOM Report Summary

Project ID: 19733
Funded under: FP6-SUSTDEV
Country: United Kingdom

Final Report Summary - ROADS2HYCOM (Research Coordination, assessment, deployment and support to HyCOM)

The ROADS2HYCOM project is a partnership of 29 stakeholder organisations supported by the European Commission's Sixth Framework Programme. The project has studied technical and socio-economic issues associated with the use of fuel cells and hydrogen in a sustainable energy economy, by combining expert studies in technology status, energy supply and socio-economics with an active programme of engagement with key stakeholders, especially early adopters of the technologies.

Over its duration, the project has provided support, information and feedback to the European Commission, the European Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Technology Platform (HFP), the New Energy World Joint Technology Initiative (NEW JTI) and the Hydrogen Regions and Municipalities Partnership (Hyramp).

The project has studied critical aspects of hydrogen supply, including:
- the capacities of existing manufacture and distribution infrastructures, including online databases of these resources;
-the potential of future renewable and low carbon energy resources for hydrogen manufacture;
-the logistics of hydrogen transportation, electricity grid development and the use of hydrogen as a grid energy buffer;
- the evolution of hydrogen energy chains in terms of costs and environmental factors.

The project has studied and engaged with this important stakeholder sector by:
- establishing a database of existing and potential public technology demonstrations;
- characterising these early adopters in terms of their drivers and capacities, enabling conclusions to be drawn regarding key success factors;
- studying relevant European policy measures, and drawing conclusions on critical points for the future in terms of general policies and regional cluster development in fuel cells and hydrogen;
- developing a set of three handbooks for community and municipal stakeholders, which start with basic guidance on identifying whether fuel cells and hydrogen is a topic of interest, and then give an overview of the technologies, planning establishing and running a project, monitoring its success, financing and exploitation.

The technological state of the art is advancing significantly, but the right support and incentives (in particular, for research and technology development) are still very much required to address critical issues such as the storage of hydrogen in vehicles, real-world fuel cell durability (including impurity tolerance), and the realisation of cost-effective higher volume manufacture. For critical issues such as these, mechanisms that foster the development of technology pipelines from basic research to the industrial sector, encourage collaboration, and constantly monitor progress of the state of the art, will be required.

Based on the project's research it can be concluded that:
- there will be an increasing need to develop the engineering, manufacturing and servicing skill-base, as more fuel cell and hydrogen technologies approach the point of commercialisation, in order to support their arrival in the market - a strong position here is essential to support Europe's high value position in the global economy.
- there are significant early markets created by specialised application niches whose nature (often high asset utilisation or the requirement to provide electric energy more effectively than a battery) creates a 'business case'; and by the political will of municipal early adopters. These markets need to be encouraged to grow and replicate by implementing appropriate policies at European level. Required policies include harmonisation of standards, incentives to encourage early markets, and ongoing measures to unite the efforts and share the experiences of early adopters.
- in the most mass-produced applications such as transport, civic initiatives alone cannot generate enough product volume to bring down costs to profitable mass-production levels, even in a high crude oil price scenario. This means that the final step needs to be taken by the manufacturer, in bringing forward early halo-products that (as was the case with hybrid vehicles from the late 1990s) attract early adopters but are not profitable for at least a decade. Therefore, government policy to support fiscal incentives and infrastructure build-up must be consistent over that period (and sound in terms of environmental and energy security credentials) to ensure that manufacturers have the confidence to take that step.
- there is a critical need to link the development of sustainable and low carbon energy policy, to that for the supply of hydrogen as a fuel, so that the environmental potential of hydrogen-fuelled applications can be realised; the linkage to grid development and sustainable electricity (which both complements and competes with hydrogen as an energy vector) is especially critical.
- Europe appears to hold a reasonable position in respect of these issues, with technology applicable across a range of sectors, appropriate technical skills and potential for adaptable, multi-level (European, national, regional) political support. It is inevitable that Europe will need to bring in technologies and energy resources from overseas; equally, Europe should be in a strong position to deliver high value exports. Efforts to promote more cohesion need to be flexible, and focus on Europe's strengths.

To reflect these conclusions in a way that indicates what needs to be done now, the project has proposed seven 'success factors' for fuel cells and hydrogen:

- Vigorous research to address key issues: Realisation of mass-production, durability and impurity tolerance, hydrogen storage in vehicles.
- Development of the skill-base: Research, product engineering, manufacturing, servicing.
- Stimulation of early markets: Fiscal incentives, civic procurement, removal of bureaucratic barriers, sharing of learning.
- Financing: Availability of research and infrastructure grants, venture capital and business loans, on a suitable, stable and secure basis.
- Stability of long term policy: Sustained policy support, financing and incentives to promote industrial investment in mass production.
- Joined-up energy policy: Clarity of priorities (environment, energy security), availability of low-carbon energy, integration with a smarter electricity grid.
- Flexible European cohesion: Playing to our strengths in international markets.

Over the lifetime of the ROADS2HYCOM project, unprecedented peaks in the price of fossil fuels and increasing political concern over environmental issues have significantly strengthened the case for many clean energy technologies. Echoing trends observed in nature, the future is likely to be one of increasing diversity of energy supply and use, as each new source or technology finds niches to which it is best adapted. In a scenario of constrained fossil fuel supply and greenhouse gas emission, a strengthened market for efficient devices like the fuel cell, and clean fuels like 'green' hydrogen, is inevitable. The challenge now for Europe is to bring together critical masses of stakeholders in technology development, energy supply and the wider community in order to ensure that the vision of fuel cells and hydrogen in a sustainable energy economy is realised.

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