More than 1GW of global hydrogen fuel capacity was added in 2019, marking the first time the sector has surpassed the gigawatt milestone, with experts claiming that this could be a decade of “ascendency” for the technology.
According to a report from energy consultants E4tech, approximately 1.1GW of fuel cell capacity was shipped worldwide in 2019 – a 40% increase on 2018 levels.
The main interest in hydrogen continues to be for fuel cell vehicles, with car firms Toyota and Hyundai accounting for two-thirds of the 1.1GW capacity. The report adds that a “burgeoning” market for hydrogen buses, trucks and van saw vehicles account for more than 900MW in 2019.
E4tech’s director, fuel cells and hydrogen, Davis Hart said: “There is a real sense that the industry is on the cusp of something great. Fuel cells are proven from a technical perspective and blowing past the 1 GW mark is a vindication of that. Now, as we enter a new decade, the sector also enters a new stage, which will be characterised by rapid commercialisation and infrastructure build out.
“If the 2010s can be seen as the breakout decade for the battery, the 2020s will see the ascendancy of the fuel cell.”
The private sector’s use of hydrogen as a fuel is still in its infancy, but the early signs of a “hydrogen revolution” are brewing across the globe. In the transport sector, hydrogen vehicles have been supported by the likes of brewer AB InBev, oil and gas major Shell and waste management firm Veolia, while carmakers Daimler, Hyundai and Nikola Motor have all bolstered their funding for hydrogen technologies in recent times. More recently, Toyota unveiled plans to re-open its former vehicle production plant in Altona, Australia, as a hydrogen production and fuelling facility,
Asia remains the largest market for fuel cells, accounting for 680 MW, but plans are in place to make hydrogen a key building block of the low-carbon economy in the UK.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), for example, has called for all UK corporates, politicians and members of the public to be educated about the benefits and limitations of hydrogen technology in the wake of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recent findings into the severe impacts of global warming.
Last year, the government awarded 20 projects a share of £7m to explore innovative ways of making and using low-carbon hydrogen.
More broadly, energy-from-waste firm Waste2Tricity has revealed plans to develop the UK’s first industrial-scale facility capable of converting waste plastics into hydrogen in Cheshire.
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