As a progressive conference here in Amsterdam - or the ‘Dam as we’ve been referring to it locally – draws to a close for the day, it’s been interesting to see just how much energy (pun intended) there is in the room for the Hydrogen Economy.
The historic Beurs van Berlage building makes for an iconic setting for the event, and today we’ve already seen an illustrious panel of key stakeholders to match, spanning the hydrogen business, the automotive sector, the chemicals business, technology innovators and, crucially, standards and safety personnel.
With Day 1 of the conference devoted to discussion of the Hydrogen Economy, it stands to reason that there’s been a veritable verve for that cause.
But what we’ve seen is a real advocacy, if not insistence, that hydrogen will be a central pillar in the energy transition – and some very pointed calls to action in continuing to advance the cause.
“All industries are being faced with the need to decarbonise their sectors…It is possible to make, out of hydrogen, the energy vector of the future,” encouraged Pierre-Etienne Franc, Vice-President of Air Liquide Hydrogen Energy WBU & Secretary of the Hydrogen Council.
“Every technology has pros and cons – if you don’t move into the debate with conviction, if we don’t do it, nobody will do it for us. We are - all of us - the market shapers, and if we do it now it will work.”
Conviction is certainly something that the Hydrogen Council can boast; Franc had explained that the Hydrogen Council has 40 members as of today – with US members and Chinese members in addition to those of Europe, and discussions with other regions to join. It has triggered interest and visibility; it has created momentum in the willingness to invest and participate, he enthused.
With the likes of Air Liquide et al so heavily invested in the Council, it has perhaps also added weight to the changing definition of the hydrogen business as part of the industrial gases industry.
gasworld CEO and Publisher John Raquet had earlier introduced the conference and explained that hydrogen as an energy vector was on the periphery of the core industrial gases business, but later exchanged observations with Franc that this business had actually become a core of the industry – and shared the latter’s call to action in acting now to build the case.
Mutual calls to action were a theme throughout the day but, as in any healthy debate, so were competing campaigns for action. On the one hand, the European Hydrogen Association’s (EHA) Ian Williamson – Panel Chair for the morning - had called for greater delivery of hydrogen-powered vehicles from the automotive manufacturers. The infrastructure is building all of the time, he reasoned. This was met, on the other hand, by counter pleas from the representatives of Hyundai and BMW on the panel, who were both inclined to believe that there is not yet sufficient infrastructure in place.
“We want to see a lot more infrastructure there and if you (the audience) provide the infrastructure, as I’m sure you will, we will bring the cars,” urged Jan Burdinski, Head of European government relations at Hyundai Motor Company, during a particularly engaging Q&A panel.
The chicken and egg conundrum was inescapable, yet there is a strong feeling here that we have moved beyond that scenario, that we are actively moving beyond the required tipping point in the hydrogen economy. It is here, and happening. The desire is there, the intent and action is there, and the technologies are there.
Indeed, during the following session on technologies, almost everyone was in agreement that the hydrogen movement will not be found wanting in terms of the technologies required. “We need to innovate, which some of us here are doing, but we also need to get those cars and those buses on the road,” said PitPoint’s Oskar Voorsmit. “It is not a matter of technology, the technology is there – it needs to grow,” added Hydrogenics’ Denis Thomas.
So everything is in place, right? Not quite. For many, if not most stakeholders involved, the biggest call to action is in the investment and backing required from a higher level. Upon that, everyone is agreed – as well as the sheer importance of the hydrogen-as-a-fuel movement and today’s conference itself.
The feeling on the ground here has definitely been one of positivity for the subject matter.
From the opening drinks reception yesterday to breakfast discussion this morning and coffee break conversations throughout today, there is very little doubt about the significance of the clean energies cause and how to ride that wave - for the good of the company, for the bottom line, for industry and of course, for society and each and everyone one of us. That is undoubtedly the biggest call to action of all.