More than hot air: hydrogen on the agenda at Davos

Ashley Coates
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Businessmen and world leaders have descended upon the Swiss ski resort of Davos for the annual World Economic Forum. (Source: Getty)

A new initiative to place hydrogen at the top of the global energy agenda was launched yesterday by thirteen international businesses, including Toyota, BMW, Shell, Anglo American and Hyundai.

Together the companies represent 1.72m employees globally and around €1.07 trillion in revenue.

Plug-in battery powered hybrid and electric cars might be getting all the attention at the moment, but the new council is determined to see hydrogen fuel cells established as a mainstream CO2-free source of electricity.

The “Hydrogen Council” had its first formal meeting during day one of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos. Businesses that signed up to the council pledged to commit further funds towards the development and commercialisation of hydrogen technologies.

The new group told press and investors that hydrogen is a “versatile energy carrier” and the effectiveness of both hydrogen fuel cells and the infrastructure needed to support their use had improved significantly in recent years. Investment in hydrogen as an energy source currently runs at around €1.4 Bn/year, much of it put up by the companies that have formed the new council.

Plug-in battery powered hybrid and electric cars might be getting all the attention at the moment, but the Hydrogen Council is determined to see hydrogen fuel cells become a key component of the future energy mix.

“Hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles offer the most natural solution for zero emission vehicles – emitting only water and requiring little change to the way we are all used to driving and refuelling our cars.” Mark Cutifani, CEO, Anglo American.

Takeshi Uchiyamada, Chairman of Toyota added: "The Hydrogen Council will exhibit responsible leadership in showcasing hydrogen technology and its benefits to the world. It will seek collaboration, cooperation and understanding from governments, industry and most importantly, the public”.

The “council” itself comprises the 13 CEOs or chairs of the businesses that form part of the new initiative, which is the first of its kind supporting the development of hydrogen power.

Energy and climate change has been a major theme of sessions at the World Economic Forum for years. In the forum’s Opening Plenary, Chinese president Xi Jinping used his first address at Davos to mount a strong defence of both globalisation and the landmark Paris climate deal that China signed up to last year.

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