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Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies — A Focus on Hydrogen
ing a successful transition, there would be sufficient market incentives for industry to invest the needed capital without government support. Additional details of some of the longer-term resource needs to support the Hydrogen Success scenario are found in Chapter 6.
Other factors besides technical progress and funding requirements could also affect the viability of achieving the Hydrogen Success scenario. While a comprehensive assessment of potential barriers to a transition to fuel cell vehicles was beyond the scope of this study, one of those factors—the availability of the requisite skilled workforce—was examined by the committee, as discussed below.
The question looms large as to whether there will be sufficient professional and skilled labor resources available to achieve the growth in fuel cell vehicles reflected in the scenarios developed by the committee. Numerous recent reports have highlighted concerns about the availability of critical skills and trained personnel resources, particularly in the energy arena. For example, a recent National Petroleum Council report declared that a demographic cliff is looming in all areas of energy industry employment (NPC, 2007). The U.S. Department of Labor recently released a report on the “graying” of workers in the nuclear industry that indicated around one-third of the workforce in that segment of the energy business will be eligible to retire in the next 5 years (EBiz, 2007). The committee also is aware that DOE has been conducting an employment study related to the hydrogen and fuel cell industry, but that study has not yet been released and was not available to the committee during the committee’s information-gathering efforts.
To address the question of skills availability in the hydrogen and fuel cell industry, the committee constructed a simple flow diagram showing the elements of this emerging industry segment (Figure 7.5). Key industrial players in each element of the business model shown in Figure 7.5 were identified, and more than 20 “not-for-attribution” interviews were conducted with executives representing those companies (as well as with several academics and nongovernmental organization officials with expertise in the field). The companies ranged from early-stage entrepreneurial businesses to international giants with global reach. Uniformly, the feedback received in these interviews was that there was little or no concern about attracting the skills needed to achieve the growth trajectories envisioned from the initial commercial introduction of hydrogen vehicles until 2025—even in the most aggressive of the committee’s scenarios.
It is possible that beyond 2025, when the committee’s projections envision the construction of large facilities for central generation of hydrogen, as well as pipeline delivery systems, labor force constraints may become more critical, but the committee is reluctant to speculate on that possibility at this time. It was also recognized by the committee that new skills and knowledge will have to be acquired by public sector agencies dealing with codes, standards, and safety matters related to the hydrogen transition. Planning and effort will be required well in advance to ensure that the skills and knowledge needed to permit, install, and operate hydrogen systems will be available when necessary.
In summary, the committee found no evidence from the information gathered in its brief field research effort that there is any need to be concerned about the availability of critical skills to achieve a rapid ramp-up in the introduction of fuel cell vehicles and related fueling infrastructure, at least
FIGURE 7.5 Diagram of the early structure of the hydrogen and fuel cell industries, identifying areas where skilled people will be needed.