By setting demanding goals, these pioneering governments are a forging a path toward the hydrogen economy. Hopefully others will take note and follow their lead.

New Players in the Hydrogen Game

Sandy Curtin |

New Players in the Hydrogen Game
By setting demanding goals, these pioneering governments are a forging a path toward the hydrogen economy.  Hopefully others will take note and follow their lead.

New Players in the Hydrogen Game

Sandy Curtin,

Industry, government and partnerships worldwide are working together to advance the hydrogen economy, with the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, and Germany, among others, having long histories of funding critical hydrogen and fuel cell research and demonstration activities.  However, some bold European governments and communities have now raised the bar by committing to projects that are both expansive in scope and challenging in their projected timeframe.  Motivated to wean themselves from imported oil by expanding the use of renewable technologies, as well as to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, these visionaries are strongly embracing the potential of hydrogen and fuel cells.  The scope of some projects is enormous.


Iceland is planning to end its reliance on imported oil by 2050, when it intends to have in place a model society of the future that uses renewably-derived hydrogen for all automotive and maritime applications.  The country's abundant renewable energy resources - geothermal heat and hydroelectric power, which currently supply about two-thirds of the country's energy needs - will be used to produce hydrogen by electrolysis.  Milestones have already been set:  hydrogen will power all city buses within the next decade; the country's vast fishing fleet will begin using fuel cells to provide auxiliary power by 2015 and, eventually, to provide primary power; and, by 2050, all of Iceland's vehicles will be converted to hydrogen-powered operation.  By converting the transportation sector to hydrogen power, Iceland anticipates a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by about 66 percent.  To implement this vast agenda, Icelandic New Energy was formed as a project manager for hydrogen demonstrations and research.  The group has already led the European Commission (EC)-supported ECTOS (Ecological City TranspOrt System) project to test three Citaro fuel cell buses in Reykjavik.  The buses, which operated under ECTOS between 2003 and 2005, are continuing to operate through 2006 as part of the EC's subsequent CUTE (Clean Urban Transport for Europe) project to demonstrate fuel cell buses in nine European cities.


Sweden plans to become the world's first oil-free economy by 2020, replacing its fossil fuel consumption, mainly by the transportation sector, with renewably-produced energy.  The country has already successfully reduced oil consumption by 77 percent between 1970 and 2003 and now meets most electricity needs with nuclear and hydroelectric power.  Hydrogen will play a role in achieving the zero-oil goal - more than 100 organizations have collaborated to form HyFuture, a group working to introduce hydrogen infrastructure and fuel cell demonstrations in Western Sweden.  The Western region is well suited for promoting renewable technologies as it is home to the country's shipping and automaking industries (Saab, Volvo) which could benefit from environmentally-friendly hydrogen and fuel cells.  Also present is a strong petrochemical industry that produces 1,000 kilograms/hour of pure hydrogen, sufficient annual production to provide fuel for 50,000 fuel cell vehicles traveling 15,000 kilometers each, or to provide 7,500 households with 15,000 kilowatt hours per year of electricity.  To further its hydrogen goal, HyFuture has joined with partners Denmark and Norway to create the Scandinavian Hydrogen Highway Partnership to make the Scandinavian region one of the first in Europe with a network of commercially-available hydrogen refueling stations.   The country has also held bus demonstrations under EC's CUTE project, operating three fuel cell transit buses in Stockholm during 2004 and 2005.


Beyond Denmark's participation in the Scandinavian Hydrogen Highway Partnership through the national Hydrogen Link initiative, a unique regional project that is currently underway.  The Municipality of Nakskov, located on the Danish island of Lolland, has entered into a partnership with Danish fuel cell developer IRD Fuel Cell, and project development organization Baltic Sea Solutions to become a living "full scale Danish Community Testing Facility" for IRD's fuel cell technologies.  The project began in April 2006 and involves the deployment of fuel cell-based combined heat and power generation (micro CHP) systems to private households within the Municipality to enable production of electricity and heat on-site.  The final phase of the project will include the complete conversion of a small rural community to hydrogen, where different fuel cells will be tested.  Hydrogen for the project will be derived by electrolyzer from the island's surplus wind power resources and delivered to households using a new hydrogen micro-grid distribution system.  The two-year project is partly funded by the Danish Energy Authority.  

Driving a Hydrogen Future

These notable European countries are helping to spur the development of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies as they pursue their goals of energy self-sufficiency and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.  It will be interesting to follow the development of these ambitious programs.  By setting demanding goals, these pioneering governments are a forging a path toward the hydrogen economy.  Hopefully others will take note and follow their lead.


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