The 17th World Hydrogen Energy Conference has opened in Brisbane, Australia yesterday as the industry comes together to discuss hydrogen as the most applicable energy resource in future years.

Dr Andrew Dicks, Chairman of the WHEC Organising Committee welcomed some 500-plus delegates from 44 countries to the Brisbane Convention Centre for the event, the theme being to supply energy to a changing world and especially for transport - with hydrogen being perceived as the best energy vector to use to help the planet.

Dr Dicks stated that we must start taking the environment and global climate change seriously before it becomes too late.

He introduced Murray Meaton, President of the Australian Institute of Energy, one of the main sponsors of the event who also welcomed the guests, sponsors and delegates to the event.

However, it was left to Professor Nejat Veziroglu, President of the International Association of Hydrogen Energy, to severely warn us that there are three main concerns that need to be addressed. These were stated as Global Environmental Problems, Depletion of Resources and Famine and under nutrition.

Veziroglu stated that insurance companies have estimated that $6 trillion is the estimated figure of insurance losses expected for 2008 due to environmental damage - 11% of gross world product. He also noted that it will only be 10 years before world oil production will peak but it is not just oil that harbours concerns. Minerals peak output is expected to be reached by 2050 for Iron and 2040 for aluminium.

Copper production will peak in 20 years from now. However, the world population, currently standing at 6.5 billion will continue to grow at 1.7% per year. So it as noted, “it is imperative that hydrogen is developed to be the energy system for the planet. hydrogen does not cause global warming, does not damage the ozone layer, does not cause acid rain or oxygen depletion and does not damage the environment.”

If we can improve living standards in the undeveloped world - this will have an impact in slowing the 2.5% per annum increase in population from those regions/countries. There is no reason why every country does not have a Hydrogen Energy System. While he recognised that up until recently, hydrogen is generally accepted to be 3 times the cost of fossil fuels energy systems, higher oil prices and technology developments are narrowing the gap. He urged companies and governments to renew efforts to make Hydrogen the energy system of choice.

Paul Lucas, Deputy Premier of Queensland, officially opened the conference with his speech, welcoming delegates to Queensland and stating that he had no doubts about his Government sponsoring the WHEC event - as Queensland must enter the debate and address the challenge to improve the planet’s environment, looking at alternative energy systems. He made an interesting comment in that Queensland was a fifth of the size of Europe, had only 4 million people but that the gas distribution network feeding the houses was only used for cooking and heating water and not the houses themselves.

Lucas would like to see the gas used for fuel cells use in the houses so that electricity could be self generated at the consumer end - therefore making maximum use of the gas supply infrastructure.

Dr Jenz Baganz - Minister of Economics and Energy of the North Rhine Westphalia State in Germany was also invited as a guest speaker in which he stated that they had just signed an MOU with the Queensland Government for mutual interaction on alternative energy systems. He stated that NRW region was still very dependent on lignite coal for its energy but it already has a hydrogen pipeline network already existing in the Ruhr-Rhine region.

NRW had supported 80 R&D projects on hydrogen and fuel cells to a total amount of €130m in funding and was also proud to be accommodating the 18th WHEC Conference in Essen in 2010.