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Towards a National Policy Dialogue on Hydrogen in the USA. Presentation on “Science, Society and Sustainability” Conference, Santorini, June 18-21, 2006 Prof. Philip J. Vergragt Ph.D . Visiting Scholar, MIT Senior Associate, Tellus Institute, Boston

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towards a national policy dialogue on hydrogen in the usa

Towards a National Policy Dialogue on Hydrogen in the USA

Presentation on “Science, Society and Sustainability” Conference, Santorini, June 18-21, 2006

Prof. Philip J. Vergragt Ph.D.

Visiting Scholar, MIT

Senior Associate, Tellus Institute, Boston

Former Professor of Technology Assessment, TU Delft

my background
My background
  • Chemistry and Society (1970s)
  • Technological Innovation studies (1980s)
  • Sustainable Technology Development (1990s); visioning and backcasting
  • Consumption: the Sustainable Household (end 1990s)
  • Energy, Transportation, Hydrogen, Buildings, Social Learning (2000s)
  • Sustainability scenarios; Great Transition (2000s)
towards a national policy dialogue on hydrogen in the usa3
Towards a National Policy Dialogue on Hydrogen in the USA
  • Introduction; context; challenge
  • Visioning, scenario development, backcasting and socio-technical experiments
  • A methodology for stakeholder dialogue
  • Hydrogen scenarios
  • A stakeholder dialogue
  • Conclusions
1 introduction
1. Introduction
  • Hydrogen is touted as ‘fuel of the future’
  • In the far future, transportation will be either by hydrogen fuel cells, or battery-electric, or by biofuels
  • Although hydrogen is attractive for transportation, there is also a number of problems
  • Hydrogen is an energy carrier, and needs to be generated sustainably on a large scale
  • Is hydrogen a ‘hype’? Is the hype over?
  • Arguments for a structured dialogue
world petroleum use for transportation and other purposes 1980 2020
World Petroleum Use for Transportation and Other Purposes, 1980 – 2020

Source: EIA, International Energy Outlook 1999

context sustainability climate change innovation life styles
Context: Sustainability; climate change, innovation, life styles
  • Sustainable energy generation (including conservation) is crucial in all sectors
  • Transportation is special: mobile energy source needed
  • Transportation dominated by private car: highly inefficient in many aspects: energy, space use, suburbization
  • Private car/ SUV has become the symbol of freedom, success, prosperity, the ultimate lifestyle symbol (but, NYC….)
how does it work 2
How does it work? (2)
  • It is the reversal of electrolysis:

2 H20 + electricity---2 H2 + O2

  • It is invented in 1843 by Robert Groves
  • It has been applied in Apollo and Gemini space programs (1960 and 70-ies)
  • The reaction works only in the presence of a catalyst: Platinum
  • Hydrogen needs to be stored, which is quite difficult
3 how does it work 3
3. How does it work? (3)
  • Hydrogen needs to be generated (it does not exist in nature)
  • The generation of hydrogen costs a lot of (fossil) fuel
  • There are two main routes: electrolysis and steam conversion of hydrocarbons
  • Steam conversion is a reaction where a hydrocarbon plus water yields CO2 and H2. CO2 could be captured and stored, but the technology is far from proven
arguments for a structured dialogue
Arguments for a structured dialogue
  • Technical experts strongly disagree about hydrogen as a solution (CEN Aug 2005)
  • The debate is not only about technological options; normative issues play a role
  • The problem is complex (energy security, climate change)
  • Man-made climate change is still disputed
  • Nuclear energy dispute back on the agenda
  • Other options (renewables, energy conservation) are part of the debate.
2 visioning scenario development backcasting and socio technical experiments
2. Visioning, Scenario development, Backcasting, and Socio-technical experiments
  • Visions are powerful devices that can orient and structure actions and behaviors
  • Scenarios can either be trend-following or trend-breaching (normative)
  • A scenario combines a future vision and a pathway how to get there
  • Backcasting is looking back from a desired future vision and develop a pathway
backcasting
Backcasting
  • Backcasting is “creating a robust picture of the future, and start to think about which (technical and other) means are necessary to reach this state of affairs” (Vergragt and Jansen, 1993)
  • Backcasting implies an operational plan for the present that is designed to move forward towards anticipate future states …Such a plan should be built around processes characterized as interactive and iterative” (Vergragt and Van der Wel, 1998)
bounded socio technical experiments bste
Bounded Socio-Technical Experiments (BSTE)
  • In a recent paper, Halina Brown et al. coined the term ‘BSTE’
  • A BSTE is ,…an attempt to introduce a new technology on a scale bounded in space and time…’
  • ‘…carried out by a coalition of actors…’
  • …It is recognizable as an experiment
  • …It encompasses learning by doing, doing by learning, trying out new strategies, and continuous course correction
  • ….It is driven by a long-term vision
learning
Learning

We define learning as three interrelated shifts:

  • A shift in the framing of the problem and the solution directions
  • A shift the principal approaches to solving the problem
  • A shift in the relationships between the participants in the experiment, including convergence of goals and problem definitions
learning 2
Learning (2)

Learning is derived from organizational and policy-oriented learning

Two types of learning:

  • ‘technical’, ‘adaptive’, ‘single-loop’ searching for new (policy) instruments in the context of fixed policies
  • ‘Higher order’, ‘generative’, ‘double-loop’ learning involves a change in norms, values, goals and operating procedures
3 a methodology for stakeholder dialogue
3. A methodology for stakeholder dialogue
  • A stakeholder dialogue process has been successfully applied in the “National Energy Policy Initiative (NEPI) in 2002 by the Consensus Building Institute
  • The process consisted of stakeholder interviews, expert workshop, briefings to Congress committees, and wider dissemination
  • The results were: a diagnosis, a long-term vision, a set of top priority areas, and policy strategies
  • The final outcome was disappointing because the White House was not participating
methodology 2
Methodology (2)
  • Higher-order learning processes should become central in the stakeholder dialogue.
  • In order to facilitate learning, a shared vision should be developed about sustainable transportation
  • Hydrogen could act as a ‘catalyst’ in such a process
slide19
In a stakeholder dialogue process, facts could be separated from fiction and political bias….
  • …..interests could be mapped and identified…..
  • Short-term and long-term arguments could be separated
  • Visioning and backcasting could be the basis of dialogue and learning
  • Tellus scenario study could form a useful input for such a process
4 hydrogen scenarios tellus study
4. Hydrogen scenarios: Tellus study
  • Tellus Institute, Boston, has developed scenarios for a transition to 95% hydrogen fuel cell cars in 2050
  • They investigated all possible routes for hydrogen generation (centrally and decentrally; transportation, and delivery, and looked at the costs
  • They found that energy efficiency saves more greenhouse gas emissions than hydrogen
conclusions from the tellus study
Conclusions from the Tellus study
  • Strong political will is necessary for a transition to a hydrogen society
  • A clear strategy including experiments, demo’s, transitional technologies, risk-reducing incentives is also necessary
  • However, energy efficiency and renewable energy do better for GHG reduction than BAU+ hydrogen for transportation
  • Electricity and biofuels are strong contenders
  • Short-term focus on hydrogen may have negative benefits for near-term CO2 emissions
adding to the conclusions
Adding to the conclusions
  • Hydrogen is no panacea or ‘silver bullet’
  • Technological breakthroughs are necessary, in fuel cells and H-storage
  • Chicken-egg problem of infrastructure needs to be solved
  • There are strong alternatives: biomass and battery-electric, and also hybrids
  • Generation of enough sustainable energy is a major bottleneck
  • Carbon capture and storage is possible, but still unproven
  • Probably life-style changes are unavoidable
5 policy stakeholder dialogue
5. Policy stakeholder dialogue

Two main questions are proposed:

  • “How much could hydrogen contribute to solve energy security and climate change problems in the long run for the USA?
  • Under which conditions should a hydrogen infrastructure for the USA be developed?”
some discussion points
Some discussion points….
  • Long term benefits vs. short-term urgency
  • Renewable energy for the electricity grid rather than for hydrogen production
  • R&D policy: How much for energy conservation and how much for hydrogen?
  • Keep many options open vs. pick a winner
  • Pave the way to hydrogen by other applications (laptops, mobile phones)?
  • Public awareness should be driving force
  • Investigate the negative aspects upfront
6 conclusions
6. Conclusions
  • A stakeholder dialogue could be the basis for a strong strategic policy package, endorsed by all stakeholders
  • However, differences between protagonists and adversaries run deep (‘wicked problem’)
  • Protagonists argue that in the long run hydrogen is the only viable zero emission solution
  • Antagonists argue on various levels: other options are more attractive (biomass, electric), hydrogen is not cost-effective, and/or ultimately we need life-style changes
thank you for your interest
Thank you for your interest…
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