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Let there be light: just harness hydrogen

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:06 pm    Post subject: Let there be light: just harness hydrogen Reply with quote

The Independent - 29/08/10

Britain could find itself in the dark by the end of the decade.

This is the stark reality facing the energy sector and the country, according to Dr Graham Cooley, the chief executive of one of the few enterprise in Britain that is trying to commercialise clean hydrogen fuel. His imagery becomes gruesome: If Britain's energy situation were "like a Disney movie, we are at the point where Bambi's mother is dead".

Dr Cooley is not some lone doomsayer. The Energy minister, Charles Hendry, warned last week that the sector needed 200bn of investment to avoid future problems. His boss Chris Huhne, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, not only wants energy security but also a "low-carbon energy future". He has said that 31 per cent of Britain's energy use, including for heat and transport, must come from renewable sources by 2020 a target he estimates could provide 100bn of investment opportunities and up to half a million jobs.

A fraction 60 of these "green collar" jobs can already be found at the Sheffield manufacturing hub of Dr Cooley's company, ITM Power, which is listed on the Alternative Investment Market. The facility is filled by youngish scientists, average age 35, and beakers where electricity converts water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is then compressed and stored for later use fuelling cars, heating and lighting homes, or powering industry.

The electrolysis equipment is patented and, Dr Cooley believes, could help to regulate power supply, helping to prevent blackouts. To demonstrate his point, he has a mock-up flat with a kettle, oven and microwave running on hydrogen at the factory.

Dr Cooley says the ability to harness as well as store renewable energy is one of the most critical challenges facing Britain and one where the use of hydrogen could be effective. But as ITM prepares for its first large-scale trial of its technology in commercial vehicles next year, and forges links with the rapidly expanding hydrogen economies worldwide, it is furrowing a lonely path in Britain.

"The US and German governments have made a commitment to hydrogen. But in UK government policies there is no mention of the use of hydrogen," he says. "It is a huge and serious oversight."

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