• Safety policy goals should be proposed and discussed by the Department of Energy with stakeholder groups early in the hydrogen technology development process.

  • The Department of Energy should continue its work with standards development organizations and ensure increased emphasis on distributed production of hydrogen.

  • Department of Energy systems analysis should specifically include safety, and it should be understood to be an overriding criterion.

  • The goal of the physical testing program should be to resolve safety issues in advance of commercial use.

  • The Department of Energy’s public education program should continue to focus on hydrogen safety, particularly the safe use of hydrogen in distributed production and in consumer environments.

Carbon Dioxide-Free Hydrogen

The long timescale associated with the development of viable hydrogen fuel cells and hydrogen storage provides a time window for a more intensive DOE program to develop hydrogen from electrolysis, which, if economic, has the potential to lead to major reductions in CO2 emissions and enhanced energy security. The committee believes that if the cost of fuel cells can be reduced to $50 per kilowatt, with focused research a corresponding dramatic drop in the cost of electrolytic cells to electrolyze water can be expected (to ~$125/kW). If such a low electrolyzer cost is achieved, the cost of hydrogen produced by electrolysis will be dominated by the cost of the electricity, not by the cost of the electrolyzer. Thus, in conjunction with research to lower the cost of electrolyzers, research focused on reducing electricity costs from renewable energy and nuclear energy has the potential to reduce overall hydrogen production costs substantially.

Recommendation ES-7. The Department of Energy should increase emphasis on electrolyzer development, with a target of $125 per kilowatt and a significant increase in efficiency toward a goal of over 70 percent (lower heating value basis). In such a program, care must be taken to properly account for the inherent intermittency of wind and solar energy, which can be a major limitation to their wide-scale use. In parallel, more aggressive electricity cost targets should be set for unsubsidized nuclear and renewable energy that might be used directly to generate electricity. Success in these areas would greatly increase the potential for carbon dioxide-free hydrogen production.

Carbon Capture and Storage

The DOE’s various efforts with respect to hydrogen and fuel cell technology will benefit from close integration with carbon capture and storage (sequestration) activities and programs in the Office of Fossil Energy. If there is an expanded role for hydrogen produced from fossil fuels in providing energy services, the probability of achieving substantial reductions in net CO2 emissions through sequestration will be greatly enhanced through close program integration. Integration will enable the DOE to identify critical technologies and research areas that can enable hydrogen production from fossil fuels with CO2 capture and storage. Close integration will promote the analysis of overlapping issues such as the co-capture and co-storage with CO2 of pollutants such as sulfur produced during hydrogen production.

Many early carbon capture and storage projects will not involve hydrogen, but rather will involve the capture of the CO2 impurity in natural gas, the capture of CO2 produced at electric plants, or the capture of CO2 at ammonia and synfuels plants. All of these routes to capture, however, share carbon storage as a common component, and carbon storage is the area in which the most difficult institutional issues and the challenges related to public acceptance arise.

Recommendation ES-8. The Department of Energy should tighten the coupling of its efforts on hydrogen and fuel cell technology with the DOE Office of Fossil Energy’s programs on carbon capture and storage (sequestration). Because of the hydrogen program’s large stake in the successful launching of carbon capture and storage activity, the hydrogen program should participate in all of the early carbon capture and storage projects, even those that do not directly involve carbon capture during hydrogen production. These projects will address the most difficult institutional issues and the challenges related to issues of public acceptance, which have the potential of delaying the introduction of hydrogen in the marketplace.

The Department of Energy’s Hydrogen Research, Development, and Demonstration Plan

As part of its effort, the committee reviewed the DOE’s draft “Hydrogen, Fuel Cells & Infrastructure Technologies Program: Multi-Year Research, Development and Demonstration Plan,” dated June 3, 2003 (DOE, 2003b). The committee’s deliberations focused only on the hydrogen production and demand portion of the overall DOE plan. For example, while the committee makes recommendations on the use of renewable energy for hydrogen production, it did not review the entire DOE renewables program in depth. The committee is impressed by how well the hydrogen program has progressed. From its analysis, the committee makes two overall observations about the program:

  • First, the plan is focused primarily on the activities in the Office of Hydrogen, Fuel Cells, and Infrastructure Technologies Program within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and on some activities in the Office of Fossil Energy. The activities related to hydrogen in the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science, and Technology, and in the Office of Science, as well as activities related to carbon cap-

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