UK Sustainable Hydrogen Energy Consortium (UKSHEC)

Funded by: EPSRC(Supergen)

Duration:

April 2003 to March 2007

PSI researchers:


Simon Dresner

Background, summary and aims

Background & Aims

Hydrogen is widely regarded as the most promising alternative to carbon-based fuels, and an energy economy based on sustainable hydrogen has long been viewed as the ultimate objective in renewable or ‘new’ energies. With concerns mounting over climate change, energy security and urban pollution, enthusiasm for a ‘hydrogen economy’ has never been higher. However, the attractions of hydrogen must be balanced against major technical, infrastructural and socio-economic challenges that its widespread adoption would entail.

The multi-disciplinary UK Sustainable Hydrogen Energy Consortium (UKSHEC), of which PSI is a member, has been established under the EPSRC Supergen initiative to target many of these challenges.

Research at PSI aims to:

  • Delineate alternative configurations of a Sustainable Hydrogen Energy Economy, within a wider global context and a realistic time-scale.
  • Identify plausible pathways and route-maps to these possible futures, whilst identifying interim technological solutions and milestones.
  • Identify the economic, institutional and wider social conditions under which these transitions might take place.
  • Identify barriers to a hydrogen future, and policies and measures which might overcome these.

Project Design

The socio-economics aspects of UKSHEC’s research is being undertaken jointly by PSI and the University of Salford, in collaboration with the Greater London Authority. This research will also draw heavily on knowledge and insights from the science and engineering members of the consortium.

Foundation work packages address ‘technology characterisation’ and ‘policy/urban and regional infrastructure drivers’. These, along with stakeholder workshops, will inform a work package on hydrogen futures scenarios. Further work packages address the ‘economics of the hydrogen economy’, ‘risk assessment and public perceptions’, ‘modelling pathways to hydrogen futures’, and an ‘institutional/policy assessment’ and the ‘public acceptability’ of a future hydrogen economy.

Importance of Research

The research will make an important contribution to understanding what a sustainable hydrogen energy economy might look like in the UK context, the types of policy measures necessary to promote the widespread development and adoption of hydrogen technologies for both stationary and transport uses, and the extent to which such changes are likely to be both socially acceptable and environmentally beneficial.

In addition, the work will also contribute to the academic literature in areas such as: foresight futures and scenario building; risk perception and regulation; the social shaping technology; and, the economics of technical change.