11. Fuel Cells
In answer to Parliamentary
Question on 9 Feb, Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks reported on progress
so far on UK fuel cell research.
He noted that the DTI had commissioned two reports in 2004: “Hydrogen
Energy Support in the UK” and “A Strategic Framework for
Hydrogen Energy in the UK” (www.dti.gov.uk/energy/sepn/hydrogen.shtml).
He went on ‘Government research funding includes support for industrial
collaborative research and development for fuel cell and hydrogen technologies
through the DTI’s Technology Programme. The programme seeks to
advance these technologies for both stationary power generation and
transport applications, with a view to achieving the cost reductions
and performance levels necessary for commercial deployment. This support
currently amounts to approximately between £2-3m per annum.’
In parallel, he noted that basic research in universities on both fuel
cells and hydrogen is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences
Research Council (EPSRC), including through the SUPERGEN initiative,
which in turn supports the UK Sustainable Hydrogen Energy Consortium
(UK SHEC) which has received funding of £2.5m.
In addition to SUPERGEN, EPSRC has awarded £1m to investigate
the potential role of formic acid as a chemical method for the storage
of hydrogen, and £500,000 has been granted to three projects on
fundamental science and engineering relevant to the hydrogen economy.
He added that hydrogen and fuel cell projects are also eligible to apply
to the Carbon Trust for research funding and several had: see: www.thecarbontrust.co.uk/carbontrust/low_carbontech/dlct2_l_4.aspx
He went on ‘On
15 June 2005, 1 announced the Government’s response to the report
“A Strategic Framework for Hydrogen Energy Activity in the UK”
which includes a funding commitment of £15m over four years for
a UK wide hydrogen and fuel cell demonstration programme. The demonstration
scheme is currently in preparation, and will require EC state aid approval.
The Government have also provided funding of over £450,000 for
the trial of three hydrogen powered fuel cell buses in London as part
of the EU CUTE (Clean Urban Transport in Europe) project. £7.5m
of funding has been provided for the fuel cell and low carbon vehicle
technology Centre of Excellence (CENEX) based in Loughborough.’
Finally he noted that the Dept. for Transport had announced in Jan,
as part of their Horizons innovative research programme, ‘a competition
for projects to investigate the options for the further steps required
to move to the adoption of a hydrogen transport infrastructure’
which aimed ‘to support between two and four projects examining
the practicality and timing of the introduction of the required infrastructure
to support hydrogen fuelled vehicles at a cost of up to £500,000’.
That was a more substantial response than was given by Jacqui Smith
MP in a holding answer on the potential of fuel cells for schools. She
said the government was ‘keeping a watching brief on the development
of fuel cells’ but ‘at the moment they are in prototype
stage and too unreliable or expensive to be used in schools but future
developments may make them a cost-effective replacement for boilers’.
Funny that, it’s not a school, but Woking has had one powering
a swimming pool for some time.
PV not nuclear?
According to Prof.
Keith Barnham from Imperial College London and co-authors, in an article
in Nature Materials, the UK could have 12 GW of solar PV installed by
2023, the same as current nuclear capacity, if PV production was expanded
by 40% per year, less than the world increase of 57% in 2004. While
that may be true, the amount of energy produced would be a lot less,
since PV has a much lower load factor (maybe 11%) than nuclear plants
(80%) and is also much more expensive in p/kWh terms. But work at Imperial
on quantum well cells could double energy conversion efficiency.
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