An Integrated Hydrogen Vision for California
This paper concerns the economic and environmental challenges confronting California and the potential role for clean energy systems and hydrogen as an energy carrier in helping to address these challenges. Hydrogen in particular has recently gained great attention as part of a set of solutions to a variety of energy and environmental problems — and based on this potential the current high level of interest is understandable. In our view, however, full realization of the benefits that hydrogen can offer will not be possible without a clear strategy for producing hydrogen from clean and sustainable sources and in a cost-effective manner. One of hydrogen's greatest benefits — having a wide range of potential feedstocks for its production — also complicates the issue of how hydrogen use may be expanded and necessitates careful forethought as key technology paths unfold. We must remember that the additional cost and complexity of building a hydrogen infrastructure is only justified if significant benefits to society are in fact likely to accrue.
This paper has been written for two primary purposes. First, we argue that the time is ripe for an expanded science and technology initiative in California for clean energy development and greater end-use energy efficiency. This initiative should span transportation systems, electrical power generation, and natural gas and other fuel use, and should place the potential for expanded use of hydrogen within this broader context. Second, we specifically discuss potential concepts and strategies that California might employ as it continues to explore the use of hydrogen in transportation and stationary settings. The authors believe that at this stage the question is not if California should continue with efforts to expand hydrogen use, because these efforts are already underway, but how these efforts should be structured given the level of effort that ultimately emerges through various political and corporate strategy processes. However, we feel that it is critical that these efforts take place in the context of a broader "no regrets" clean energy strategy for California.