On 1 October, hydrogen specialists from some of the world’s biggest industrial companies assembled in London to address an audience of investors and City analysts on the potential of hydrogen to meet our energy requirements and transform how we consume energy.
The half-day conference – ‘Hydrogen: the new energy landscape’ – was organised by financial services firm Canaccord Genuity, and featured speakers from French industrial gases group Air Liquide, Japanese carmaker Honda, and German industrial giant Siemens.
Together they gave a fascinating insight into the potential of hydrogen as a source of energy, in sectors such as automotive, and as a vital ingredient to turn renewable energy into stored power through the application of electrolysis.
Attendees at the event were left in no doubt about the investment potential in the sector, with Canaccord technology analyst Bob Liao highlighting the pace of change in the hydrogen space and the capacity of market participants to roll out ‘disruptive’ hydrogen technology at an industrial scale.
Among the first to take the podium was Dr Henri Winand: the chief executive of Intelligent Energy told a packed room how the need for greater efficiency in power generation and transmission, coupled with the rise in personal mobile devices, would see a return from Alternative Current (AC), or grid-generated, power to more localised Direct Current (DC)-generated power consumption – benefiting hydrogen-fuelled distributed power generation.
Deputy Mayor of London Kit Malthouse, an enthusiastic advocate of hydrogen, illustrated Londoners’ lukewarm interest in electric cars with a startling fact: 68 percent of charging points in the capital were not used at all between April and June 2014. This he attributed to the significant time taken to recharge an electric car. By comparison, the fact that there was no ‘behavioural change’ required to refuel a hydrogen electric vehicle – because of the speed of refuelling – meant they had the potential to be far more popular.
On the same day that Toyota announced at the Paris Motor Show that its hydrogen-powered vehicle would go on sale next summer in Germany and the UK, Honda’s Thomas Brachmann told the conference that the company would also start selling hydrogen cars next year in Europe, and was working on a second-generation vehicle for 2019. Both Brachmann and Pierre Etienne Franc of Air Liquide spoke about the benefits of the European-funded HyFIVE project which will deploy hydrogen vehicles across Europe and thus help nurture clusters of refuelling stations.
Other speakers included Duncan Macleod, a consultant and former Shell executive, who explained how hydrogen was already a part of the world of Big Oil and had formed part of the oil and gas business for decades. While Gaelle Hotellier, head of hydrogen solutions at Siemens, spoke about how the German company was marketing its own PEM electrolysis system to industrial customers as it moves towards commercialisation of its hydrogen technologies.
The hydrogen landscape is certainly moving from theory to reality!