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Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Volume 456: debated on Monday 29 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to assist hydrogen fuel cell technology research and development; and if he will make a statement. (105823)

Hydrogen is an ‘energy carrier’ rather than a fuel source as, like electricity, it can only be produced using energy.

Hydrogen can be used in:

a fuel cell, where it produces zero emissions at the point of use

normal combustion, (e.g. in an internal combustion engine)

In 2004, the Department of Trade and Industry, commissioned analysis from the energy consultants E4Tech, Element Energy, and Eoin Lees. This analysis indicates that for the UK, the use of hydrogen as a transport fuel offers significant opportunities for cost-competitive CO2 reduction by 2030. Six different types of transport energy chain have this potential and also offer increased energy security. None is readily available today and each would require significant changes to the energy system. However, they are sufficiently promising to be worth pursuing as energy options for the UK. This analysis was published on the Department's website and can be found at:

On 15 June 2005, the Government responded to this analysis and published a “A Strategic Framework for Hydrogen Energy Activity in the UK” which included a funding package worth £15 million over four years for a UK wide hydrogen and fuel cell demonstration programme. The first call for proposals for the demonstration scheme has now closed and I anticipate that a second call for proposals will operate in 12-18 months time. Further information is available on the scheme's website:

Currently, the Department of Trade and Industry supports industrial collaborative research and development for fuel cell and hydrogen technologies through the Technology programme. Bids specifically for hydrogen technologies have been invited since April 2005. 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 £2-3 million per annum.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), including through the SUPERGEN initiative, support basic research in universities on both fuel cells and hydrogen. SUPERGEN supports the UK Sustainable Hydrogen Energy Consortium (UK SHEC) which has received funding of £2.5 million. This programme is supporting projects on: hydrogen generation; hydrogen storage; and socio-economic implications for a hydrogen economy.

EPSRC also supports the separate Fuel Cell SUPERGEN consortia. This is a four-year programme which began on 1 September 2005. This consortium is supported with funding of £2.085 million.

In addition to SUPERGEN, EPSRC has awarded £1 million to investigate the potential role of formic acid as a chemical method for the storage of hydrogen. £500,000 has been granted to three projects on fundamental science and engineering relevant to hydrogen technologies. EPSRC also contributes to projects through the DTI’s Technology programme.

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. £6.5 million of funding has been provided for the fuel cell and low carbon vehicle technology centre of excellence (CENEX) based in Loughborough.