At the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, the ‘Hydrogen Council’ was officially announced, made up of global industry leaders such as BMW, Shell, Honda, and Hyundai.
The aims of the Council include positioning hydrogen (H2) as a key clean energy alternative and investing in the development and commercialisation of H2 solutions.
At the Council meeting, one of the few non-members to speak was Andy Marsh, CEO of Plug Power, one of the leading innovators in H2 fuel cell technology. Plug Power’s technology is leveraged by brands such as Walmart, Carrefour, and P&G, helping power their materials handling fleets.
gasworld spoke exclusively to Marsh to gain a deeper understanding of this global initiative.
What is the purpose of the Hydrogen Council?
The companies on the Hydrogen Council intend to cooperate to ensure the clean energy potential for H2 and fuel cell technology is recognised, and to help accelerate the safe and economic deployment of these technologies going forward.
What involvement does Plug Power have?
At Davos, Plug Power was the only company with revenue under $25bn invited to speak. The reason for this is because, while the Council believes in the impactful future of the H2 economy, they fully understand that Plug Power has a tremendous amount of know-how in building an economically viable market, today.
Plug Power customers are using a colossal amount of H2 today. For example, a single Walmart site uses as much H2 today as an entire station expects to use 20 years from now.
What is the current state of H2 fuel cell adoption in the US?
Industrial adoption of H2 fuel cell solutions has been steadily growing over the past several years, and Plug Power has been poised as leaders. Several companies, including Walmart and Home Depot, have become major adopters of H2 fuel cells when it comes to powering their material handling fleets, and elsewhere we’re seeing an uptick in adoption of H2 fuel cells for stationary power purposes. There are still tremendous opportunities to expand this market. Specifically, we’re seeing efforts in the State of California by companies like Air Liquide and Honda, who are deploying and fuelling H2 fuel cell vehicles.
”Through great industry strides, we’re on the verge of success”
Andy Marsh, CEO of Plug Power
What challenges are the Council currently facing?
For H2 fuel cell technology, I’d have to say there is an opportunity, rather than a challenge, sitting with the Council. It is recognising current success paths to H2 infrastructure used today, and translating this understanding into a comprehensive H2 infrastructure strategy that will enable mass adoption. We can have the greatest mobility and stationary solutions imaginable, but without the infrastructure to consistently and reliably provide the energy source it’ll all be for naught.
What can we expect to see from the Council in the not so distant future?
The H2 and fuel cell industry, like many, has taken 15-20 years to fully develop. Through great industry strides, we’re on the verge of success. I expect we’ll see tremendous focus on infrastructure in the coming years, and a push for comments by government and large companies to make ubiquitous H2 a reality. These opportunities make it more promising than ever.
How important would you say the Hydrogen Council is?
The members of the Hydrogen Council can be critical in accelerating the development of material technologies to reduce the cost of fuel cells and develop processes and logistics to allow H2 to be a ubiquitous, cost effective fuel. Encouraging open architectures and making knowledge available such as Toyota’s royalty free use of some of their fuel cell patent portfolio could expand the market. The efforts by the Council in these areas can not only help for a cleaner environment but also spur small businesses to grow and create value for society. I applaud their efforts and look forward to supporting their work.