Continuing our look at historical data, this is a write-up of what the hydrogen economy looked like in 2007.
The energy sectors in both the United States and Europe are on the cusp of immense change. New
technologies are being developed and opportunities for entrepreneurial ideas and innovative approaches
are ripening at a time when capital-intensive, aging energy infrastructure is in need of improvement.
The world currently exists in a carbon economy. 80% of the primary energy which drives the world is
derived from hydrocarbon fossil fuels; oil 35%, coal 24% and natural gas 21% and 11% is contributed by
renewables, almost all renewable biomass. In the last two centuries the volume of carbon consumption
has increased exponentially with the world’s industrialisation.
The carbon economy has given great economic benefits to mankind but it is subject to two limitations.
Although new reserves of hydrocarbons and new technologies to exploit them are being discovered all
the time, these resources are not limitless. Secondly, fossil fuels emit greenhouse gasses and other
pollutants when they are burned and these emissions have reached dangerous proportions.
Alternatives to the carbon economy are feasible although wide scale use is some years in the future. A
hydrogen economy is one such option, in which the sustainable energy supply system of the future
features electricity and hydrogen as the dominant energy carriers. Hydrogen will be produced from a
diverse base of primary energy feedstocks, or from water using renewable electricity in the process.
The use of hydrogen would reduce dependence on petroleum and the pollution and greenhouse gas
emissions caused by carbons.
The development of the hydrogen economy will advance on two fronts. The development of another
technology, the fuel cell, is essential to the exploitation of hydrogen; the two are interlinked. It is important
to understand that hydrogen is not a primary energy source like coal and gas; it is an energy carrier, like
electricity. Hydrogen can be converted to energy via traditional combustion methods and through
electrochemical processes in fuel cells. Initially it will be produced using existing energy systems based
on different conventional primary energy sources and carriers. In the longer term renewable energy
sources could become the most important source for the production of hydrogen.
Fuel cells utilise the chemical energy of hydrogen to produce electricity and thermal energy.
From the NRG Expert Historical Data series