Transport Scotland office, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh.
The 5th Annual meeting of the Scottish Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (SHFCA) took place in Edinburgh on 25th and 26th September and was well attended with more than 80 delegates visiting the event from across Europe. Fuel cell and hydrogen technologies enjoy continued support from the Scottish Government and this was exemplified by the attendance on day two of Fergus Ewing, Scottish Parliamentary Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism. The Scottish Government also hosted the conference dinner which was held in the prestigious Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle.
The conference attracted a diverse array of speakers presenting on differing subjects of interest to the industry and the first session covered the topic of low carbon heat. Richard Lowes from Scotia Gas Networks (SGN) explained how gas is used for 70% of the UK’s heat demand with 84% of properties in the UK connected to the network. The UK’s Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is working to ensure affordable, secure, low carbon heating plays an important role in the nation’s energy mix, and Lowes highlighted a recent DECC report on the future of heating published in March 2013. SGN is 50% owned by SSE, and is currently involved in seven hydrogen projects including the refuelling project for Aberdeen’s fleet of fuel cell buses, the EcoIsland refuelling project and a power-to-gas project in cooperation with the Technology Strategy Board and ITM Power. Lowes highlighted three issues surrounding the injection of hydrogen into the UK gas grid:
- Gas quality
- Lack of clear direction on hydrogen and the future of the network
- Uncertainties surrounding OfGem innovation funding
James Verlaque from Kiwa GASTEC spoke about the results of an upcoming study which analysed grid constraints of wind farms, gas terminals, compressors and venting and storage sites, also taking curtailment of renewables into account. Verlaque stated that around 3% hydrogen concentration in the gas grid would be feasible without causing a need to upgrade appliances. The results of the study are planned for publication on 24th October 2013.
Andrew Bissell from Sunamp introduced his company’s technology which uses phase change materials as a means to store heat. Twice as much heat is used in the UK compared to electricity and so the need for heat storage is very important, especially when combined heat and power (CHP) systems are deployed, to decouple the electricity from the heat. Sunamp systems are four times smaller than conventional hot water storage systems so can offer a flexible on-demand solution. Its systems are currently undergoing testing as part of a DECC-funded trial.
The theme of CHP was picked up by Jon Cape from iPower, which is a UK social enterprise developing low carbon projects focused on reducing energy bills and carbon emissions. It is also a distributor of CFCL’s BlueGEN fuel cell CHP systems. The two companies offer fully-funded fuel cell installations which guarantee a 10% reduction on customer’s electricity bills and are available to housing associations, local authorities and a range of other sites where a small number of fuel cell systems can service a larger number of individual residents.
Liz Flint from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) began the afternoon session highlighting its activities in the sector. The TSB has invested more than £29 million to date in fuel cell and hydrogen-related projects and views the technology as a good fit for its remit to support affordable, sustainable and secure technology development in the UK. It has a number of projects coming up during the remainder of 2013 including £6 million to invest in ‘unlocking the hydrogen market’ and also a fuel cell manufacturing competition which is set to open on 4th November 2013.
Boeing consultant Enrique Troconso spoke on the interesting subject of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). These vehicles are of interest not just for military purposes, but there is actually more potential in the civilian sector where they can be used for myriad applications including: fire monitoring, border control, offshore energy monitoring, mapping and even aerial telecoms relay stations. Fuel cells offer a low noise, no greenhouse gas emissions and a low thermal signature which can be of use in many of these applications.
Ben Madden from energy consultancy Element Energy was the penultimate speak on the opening day and he discussed the elements of success for countries embarking on the road to hydrogen and fuel cell adoption. Key parts include:
- The importance of a rationale for deployment, not just doing things for the sake of it
- The importance of private sector engagement, encouraging co-investment and commitment
- Carrying out feasibility work, necessary to determine required funding levels
- Selecting the right partners
- Showing intent by getting funding on the ground
He used the example of London as a success story, but cautioned that time is an essential ingredient to launching successful projects in this area.
The final presentation of the day was a highly entertaining talk from Shona Tennant, a patent lawyer with Anderson Strathern solicitors. Tennant discussed the importance of patents, trademarks and know-how in the context of the fuel cell and hydrogen industries and gave clear description of how each could be used to protect vital intellectual property for companies working in this area.
The day closed with a workshop on hydrogen buggies, hosted by the Hydrogen Office and Arcola Energy, highlighting their work on education and outreach.
Day two of the conference began with a series of supportive comments from Minister Fergus Ewing. He is a long-term advocate of hydrogen and fuel cells, but stated that businesses didn’t necessarily want, or need, Ministers to be experts, but to support and align Government influence as much as they can. He mentioned the upcoming high-profile projects underway in the country and offered the support of his office in terms of attracting funding from both the UK and Europe, and for communicating successes to the public.
Graham Smith OBE from Toyota Motor Europe reiterated his company’s commitment to launch its fuel cell vehicle in 2015, speaking about its latest developments including a new stack which achieves a power density of 3 kW/L, reduced costs for its hydrogen tanks and Toyota’s goal to reduce overall costs to 1/20th that of its FCHV-Adv fuel cell prototype. Smith put the upcoming launch of fuel cell vehicles into context by talking about the Prius. Introduced in 1997, it took almost ten years (117 months) to reach cumulative sales of one million vehicles – and this despite using the existing refuelling infrastructure. Over 5.5 million hybrids have now been sold, with the last million only taking 11 months, highlighting the dramatic increases in adoption. Fuel cell vehicles will get there, but it will take time.
Two representatives from Air Products (AP) followed, staring with Julia Hicks who gave an overview of the company’s activities relating to hydrogen refuelling. AP is involved in a number of UK projects including building a second state-of-the-art hydrogen station in London, supporting the Aberdeen bus project and the hydrogen ferry, operating in Bristol harbour. As more fuel cell electric vehicles arrive during the next few years, AP will look to build stations in clusters, starting with London, eventually effecting nationwide coverage. Lisa Jordan followed with an update on AP’s Teeside waste-to-energy project. The site can handle 350 tonnes of waste per year, generating 50 MW of energy – enough to power 50,000 UK homes. The company already has waste purchase agreements in place and has secured a power purchase agreement with a well-known high street chain. The site is expected to come on-stream in 2014.
A preview of the Fuel Cell Today Industry Review 2013 was presented next, which was due for release the following week. Overall growth was seen for both shipments and megawatts in 2012 vs. the previous year and with a number of new projects being launched, 2013 is set to further eclipse all previous records for the sector. The 2013 Review is a free download at www.fuelcelltoday.com.
Maintaining the diversity of topics, Dave Densley from energy utility SSE discussed the difficulties integrating renewable sources of electricity into the national grid. Matching supply to demand which varies from the summer minimum up to the winter maximum is one challenge which is becoming more difficult due to the inherent variability of wind and solar power. SSE views the move from a passive grid towards a more active smarter grid as one way in which this balancing can be achieved.
The afternoon had a variety of presentations from Caledonian Marine Assets which is interested in zero-emission ferries for its routes to the Western Isle of Scotland, further details about the Aberdeen bus project were also provided, which is hoping to have vehicles available for demonstration at the All Energy event in Aberdeen in 2014. The first bus is currently under construction at its supplier, Van Hool. Hydrogenics provided an update on its activities in the power-to-gas sector, currently high-profile in Germany, but also of significant interest to Scotland. ITM Power presented on a similar theme, but specifically using the hydrogen for methanation. It is currently identifying suitable sites where the maximum benefits to the electricity grid can be demonstrated.
To close out the conference John Lidderdale, Chairman of the SHFCA, suggested the organisation should take on the responsibility to assemble a roadmap for hydrogen and fuel cell deployment in Scotland. This direction and the understanding of what will be needed is crucial to maintaining the momentum achieved in the country thus far and involving as many different stakeholders as possible including businesses, cities, government and different industries will be a key part in this process.
The conference as a whole was very interesting with good opportunities for networking in between the sessions. The SHFCA is one of the most active national organisations globally and strives to attract and include a wide variety of stakeholders. It currently has around 80 members including fuel cell and hydrogen companies, energy utilities, regional councils, consultants, solicitors and universities.
Dan Carter Manager