Select Committee on Environmental Audit Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Mr Gordon Raitt, MA, CChem, FRSC

  Personal background: MA, CChem, FRSC. School science teacher. University lecturer. Nuffield Foundation Science Teaching Development, team member and author. Local government, county council: second deputy director of education. Author of a series of books relating school physics teaching to engineering in practice.


  1.  Introduction.

  2.  Fuel cells. Some other countries and the UK.

  3.  Methanol and hydrocarbons for fuel cells.

  4.  The hydrogen economy: hydrogen for fuel. Some other countries and the UK.

  5.  Transport.

  6.  Fuel cell vehicle development cities.

  7.  A national hydrogen economy development region.

  8.  Energy storage systems.

  9.  Biomass.

  10.  Heat, and combined heat and electric power.

  11.  Wind, wave and tide industries.

  12.  Solar energy.

  13.  The renewable energy function.

  14.  Nuclear power.

  15.  The energy demand side.

  16.  Advice to government.

  17.  Speed of advance, and resources.

  18.  RDDM and E.


  A.  List of references.

  B.  EC countries. Renewable energy used as a percentage of all energy used.

  C.  Nuclear power and the environment.


  The period 2000 to 2050 will be the age of renewable energy, fuel cells, energy storage systems, and the hydrogen economy.

  With nuclear energy economically unviable and with it posing a continuing danger of a major nuclear accident at some time, with catastrophic population results, no new nuclear power stations should feature in the UK energy programme.

  In the UK, renewable energy has so far been looked at as a means of reducing the output of carbon dioxide and as a means of meeting a Kyoto target. It is fundamentally more than that; it is energy supply in its own right. As such it is a basic means of overcoming the present need to import energy.


2.1  Introduction

  The near-term alleviation of and the medium-term solution to the impending energy crisis lies in fuel cells. Fuel cells can provide for all of the major categories of needs: road vehicle electric power, institutional and domestic heat and electricity, electricity for feeding into the distribution and grid networks, and also energy for storage systems.

  Major world energy and power companies and vehicle manufacturers are involved in fuel cell development. They recognise the very large market potential.

2.2  Present European position: some examples; and timescale

(a)  Some examples

  The German firm MTU Frederickshafen is reported to be delivering seven fuel cell power plants, each of 250kWe to utilities and companies in Germany by the end of 2001. The German Utility RWE is receiving one for heat and electric power, and Michelin/En BW is receiving one for producing electricity and process steam for a tyre manufacturing plant. (Ref 7)

  The German firm Vaillant is developing a fuel cell system to provide heat and electricity to individual houses for domestic use, with marketing due in 2002. (Ref 13)

  The city of Stockholm is conducting a procurement for residential fuel cells. The first installation is to take place in a new city district that is being constructed in central Stockholm. (Ref 8)

  Rolls Royce is aiming to have a 1MW unit available by 2004/5 for the stationary power market. (Ref 11. C)

  In Vancouver between 1998 and 2000 three pure hydrogen fuel celled buses were trialled, with extension intended in 2001. (Ref 16)

  Germany runs pure hydrogen fuel celled buses in Munich and in Hamburg. Each city has a hydrodgen filling station. (Ref 10)

  Daimler Chrysler intends to launch fuel cell buses in Europe in 2002 and cars in 2004. (Ref 9)

(b)  Timescale. Some forecasts

  (i)  Fuel cells, and hydrogen. "Beyond 2010 fuel cells will alter the structure of the energy economy." . . . "By 2020 hydrogen gas will be in widespread use as a fuel." (Ref 11a)

  (ii)  Road transport. Vehicles powered by fuel cells using either stored hydrogen or hydrogen produced on board by reforming methanol or hydrocarbons:

  (iii)  Trains and ships. MTU, a member of the Daimler/Chrysler group, announced in September 2001 that by 2004 it would have a fuel cell for powering trains and ships. (Ref 12)

2.3  The UK and Fuel Cells. Present situation

  It appears that the UK is significantly behind several other countries in the development of fuel cells. In the same way that every wind generator for UK windfarms has been bought from abroad, so in the next few years it seems that the UK will be buying fuel cells for its automative and stationary power generation from Canada, the USA and Germany. This need not have been so, and a national effort is now needed to make up for lost time and lost ground.

2.4  Recommendations: Some priorities for the UK

2.4.1  Overall Aim. Major Manufacturing Capacity: domestic and export.

  The overall aim should be to develop a widely based major manufacturing industry. The domestic market will be large and the overseas markets very large, with a country like China frequently mentioned: having a very large population and very little heat and electricity provision in areas distant from major population centres.

2.4.2  Types of fuels

  The fuel of the not-very-distant future is hydrogen. It will outdo all other fuels in terms of quantity in use. It is most efficient in terms of conversion to heat and electricity. Its final waste product is water, which is harmless.

  In a transition stage methanol and hydrocarbons in conjunction with reformers will be used. These require hydrocarbon sources, which are becoming scarce, and they produce carbon dioxide as an end-product—a greenhouse gas.

2.4.3  Types of cells. For Heat and Electricity: by size and end-user:

  (A)  Stationary

  (i)  Medium size: public service offices, large institutions, industrial premises, commercial premises.

  (ii)  Large size: (a)  new housing estates and new commercial and industrial developments: district heating and electricity; surplus electricity to the distribution network. (b)  dedicated electricity supply to the distribution or grid systems, surplus heat to district heating.

  (iii)  Small size: individual households.

  (B)  Transport. This is an important sector because it is the largest category of fuel user and it is a major polluter of the atmosphere.

  (i)  Road vehicles. The immediate lead has probably been lost to several groups of overseas companies. The UK could concentrate on developing some systems conceptually in advance of other countries. These should include arrangements to plug in a parked car to supply the home heat and electricity system.

  (ii)  Boats. Perhaps concentrate on niche markets where the UK still builds: large sailing yachts, large pleasure cruisers, motor cruisers, luxury and leisure boats.

  (iii)  Rail. In a rail engine there would be no problem with storage of hydrogen; a truck next to the engine could be designed to carry hydrogen in whatever form it may prove to be stored—cylinders, tanks or other systems. Rail engines are fleet vehicles and are refuelled at dedicated depots which could have hydrogen stores.


  There is no significant problem in supplying methanol and hydrocarbons for fuel cells. Their manufacture, storage in liquid or compressed gas form, transport and distribution, and suitable sales outlets are all well established.


4.1  Present position: Some examples

  In some countries and in some companies preparation for and costing of a hydrogen economy is already in progress.

(a)  The Shell Group of companies

  In 1999 Shell Hydrogen was established. It is working on the production of hydrogen for cars and for residential premises. It is working on hydrogen storage, hydrogen safety, codes of practice and standards, and transportation. It is doing so in partnership with many other companies, amongst which are International Fuel Cells, Hydro Quebec, Norske Hydro, DaimlerChrysler, Ballard (Canada), and the Californian Fuel Partnership. (Ref 11d. Dr T. Stephenson. Shell Global Solutions, UK)

(b)  Hydrogen from wind turbines

  In November 2000 the Hamburg-based company P & T Technology announced details of a system which would combine wind turbines with a hydrogen production unit in order to provide a constant output of electricity. The German wind turbine manufacturer, Enercon, is planning to produce hydrogen at offshore windfarms. "Leading oil companies already have the infrastructure for storage and transport, including tankers," stated Managing Director Wobben. (Ref 15)

(c)  A Canadian hydrogen infrastructure demonstration project

  British Columbia Hydro and Stuart Energy Systems ran the hydrogen fuel celled buses in Vancouver which were referred to in paragraph 2.2. In 2001 they planned to deliver a prototype Community Fueler with an on-site electrolysis hydrogen generator. (Ref 16)

(d)  Norway

  "Due to the clear strategy regarding energy policy stated by the Norwegian government, Norwegian companies and companies outside of Norway have big plans to build and test fuel cell demonstration units in Norway . . ." "The Norwegian utility company Statkraft, in co-operation with the Swedish utility Sydkraft and ABB, has proposed a concept for production and distribution of hydrogen for stationary power production . . . Hydrogen will be produced primarily from wind generators." (Ref 17)

(e)  Iceland

  The Iceland government is planning for a fuel cell and hydrogen economy. (Ref 29)

(f)  USA

  Solar cells are being used to produce hydrogen in trials. (Ref 11d)

4.2  Recommendations. Priorities for the UK

  (A)  Overall UK priority. Amongst the many urgent needs in the UK the top priority should be planning for and actively working for a hydrogen economy. It is the energy economy of the future—not the distant future, nor the medium-term future, but the very near future. Some countries treat it as being already here. They will reap the benefits of establishing manufacturing industries and selling their skills and products to other countries.

  (B)  UK Priorities by Sectors. Research, development, demonstration, and the establishment of manufacturing industries and exports.

  (1)  Production of hydrogen. Using wind, wave, solar, hydro, and other sources of power.

  (2)  Storage of hydrogen. (a)  Substances. Compressed gas, metal hydrides, nanotubes, other systems yet to be discovered and developed, liquid hydrogen. (b)  Containers. Bottles, large cylinders, large tanks, large containers for loading onto and off transport lorries, road tankers, large containers for container ship transport and transfer, large capacity storage on dedicated hydrogen storage ships.

  (3)  Transport of hydrogen. Road, rail, ship and pipeline.

  (4)  Electricity and hydrogen supply ships. Vessels with combined hydrogen storage and fuel cell facilities, to travel to a port, plug into an electricity terminal, supply electricity, and then return to the source to refuel with more hydrogen.


Table 5



  * Public administration, commercial, agriculture, miscellaneous. (Ref 1)

  Table 5 shows that the transport sector is the greatest consumer of energy; and projections for 2010 and 2020 show transport still to be dominant. As internal combustion engine transport uses almost entirely oils and petrol, and as it is also a major polluter of the atmosphere, it must be a prime sector for conversion to an alternative form of propulsion and an alternative source of energy.


  The motive power for land transport and for small boats should be electricity from fuel cells.


6.1  Rationale

  In the UK the sector which uses the most energy is the transport sector. Most of it is used in the form of petrol and oil. Much of this is imported. Petrol and oil on combustion produce carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and also nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides which are major polluters of city atmospheres.

  A strong argument can be made for a major early move to develop the use of fuel-celled vehicles in major cities.

6.2  Selected development cities

6.2.1  The Principle.

  Uptake if left to individual initiatives would be diffuse and slow. Uptake would be faster, and could be monitored for successful procedures and for problems, if a few cities were designated "Fuel Cell Vehicle Development Cities".

6.2.2  Some necessary arrangements

  Some necessary arrangements would be:

    (a)  Funding. Central government and local authority joint funding of the development.

    (b)  Consultation, Planning and Public Relations. Careful advance consultation and planning, to secure the co-operation of the community.

    (c)  Fuel Cell Type and Fuel. Choice of fuel cell type, fuel, and make of new vehicles.

    (d)  Choice of Vehicle Groups. Operationally it would be convenient to involve mainly fleet operators: local authority vehicles, taxi firms, Post Office (Consignia) vehicles, commercial firm local delivery vehicles, health service local transport (walking patient transport vehicles, district nurses, health visitors, doctors), and bus companies. An additional group could be families with second cars used mainly for local journeys.

    (e)  Conversion or Purchase of Vehicles: Subsidy. A very substantial subsidy for the conversion of existing vehicles or the purchase of new ones.

    (f)  Road Tax Incentives. A small road tax.

    (g)  Fuel Points. A Local Authority fuelling point, several petroleum company petrol stations selected for suitable geographical distribution.

    (h)  Control and Monitoring. A central controlling system and monitoring, to provide for rapid response to problems arising.

6.3  Urgency, and Public Policy

  The need to reduce the consumption of petrol and oil is urgent, and the need to reduce atmospheric pollution in cities is urgent. Both could be achieved by the planned introduction of fuel-celled vehicles, and this should become a matter of public policy: led by the early development of some "Development Cities" for large-scale trials.


7.1  Rationale

  There is a need to move now into developing the elements of a hydrogen economy. This would be best done in a region where the test and development and community trials could later be expanded into large-scale production and transport of hydrogen.

7.2  A suggested location. The Western Isles of Scotland

  The Western Isles of Scotland are repeatedly quoted as one of the best areas in Europe for wind energy, wave energy, and tidal energy. Very large quantities of electricity could be produced from each of these sources. However, for the Outer Hebrides there is no electricity grid connection to the mainland, and for the Inner Hebrides the sparse grid connections are not capable of carrying large quantities of power. Thus at present little of the potential can be exploited. If, however, the wind, wave, and tidal energy were to be converted into hydrogen and the hydrogen stored suitably it could then be transported by sea to large centres of population, such as Glasgow and through Glasgow to the densely populated industrial central belt of Scotland. With increasing production it could also be transported farther south to Liverpool and inland to Manchester and their surroundings.

  Within Britain the Western Isles are the ideal place for bulk production of hydrogen, for abundant sources of electricity that cannot at present be exported as electricity.

  Within the Islands' communities the costs of diesel fuel, heating fuel, petrol and gas are higher than in other parts of Britain because of the need to convey them by sea. The communities would be beneficiaries of trials and developments of fuel cells, both for heating and for vehicle and boat transport.

  A development centre and region in the Western Isles would be readily accessible to university departments of renewable energy, physics, chemistry, engineering and other disciplines in Scotland, and to Scottish industries, for conducting research and development and for moving into production, use and export.

7.3  The nature of the development

  7.3.1  The Aims

  The aims would be to:

    (a)  Convert the Western Isles economy into a hydrogen economy, using fuel cells to provide institutional and domestic heating, cooking and lighting and power for road vehicles and for boats.

    (b)  Develop wind, wave, and tidal power to provide electricity for hydrogen production and for local use.

    (c)  Develop hydrogen production.

    (d)  Develop hydrogen storage and transport systems, for Isles use and for export.

    (e)  Develop electricity supply ships. (see Section 4.2 B(4)).

    (f)  Use the development as a test-bed for monitoring progress and problems, for finding soluitions, and for providing guidance to later developments elsewhere.

    (g)  Liaise with developers of small scale and medium scale hydrogen economies in the nearest large centres of population, such as Glasgow and the Central Belt of Scotland, with regard to supplying them with hydrogen.

    (h)  Liaise with Iceland and Norway, over their already-initiated plans for hydrogen economies.


8.1  Intorduction

  The intermittent nature of electricity production from wind, waves, tidal streams and solar cells means that for many users an energy storage system will be either beneficial or wholly necessary. Where an energy supply system produces heat in excess of what is needed the excess heat should not be wasted. It should be stored in some suitable manner.

8.2  Recommendations. For development, manufacture and construction

  There is an urgent need for research and development leading to manufacture and construction of energy storage systems based on a wide range of physical and chemical principles, and for a wide range of user groups: domestic, institutional, industrial, and large scale power supply utilities.

  Large export opportunities exist in Africa and Asia where the installation of solar cells and wind generators is growing, and where accompanying storage facilities are needed.


  In Britain the use of biomass for energy is underdeveloped.


  (1)  Studies on making good use of a wide range of biomass sources should be undertaken.

  (2)  Direct and indirect aid should be increased to forward the expansion of biomass as a source of heat and electric power.


  In the UK the domestic and industrial demand for heat energy is greater than that for electrical energy. The amount of fuel used in boilers to produce hot water and steam: for domestic washing and for industrial process work, and for domestic heating and industrial space heating, is greater than that used to produce electricity. Yet government proposals so far for renewable energy neglect heat and concentrate on the production of electricity. This neglects the reality of the situation.


  (1)  The development of a UK industry manufacturing heat only and combined heat and electric power units should be assisted.

  (2)  The use of biomass as a fuel should be greatly expanded.

  (3)  The use of such units should be encouraged.

  (4)  Financial incentives should be provided.


  Having lost the manufacture of wind turbines to Denmark, Germany and Spain, the UK should make a calculated and sustained effort to break into the market of the construction of offshore towers and onshore towers and their embedding in position. The market will not come to the UK; UK firms will have to develop designs and emplacement techniques superior to those of other countries, and go out and sell them.

  British firms developing wave generators and tidal stream generators are small in number and very small in size. There is not an assured lead. The Netherlands firm Teamwork BV plans to operate a wave 2MW pilot system off Portugal in 2001, and it expected to have a tidal stream 25kW test turbine operating at the end of 2000.

  Substantial and continuing support should be given to British wave energy and tidal stream energy development companies. The purposes should be twofold: to contribute to UK energy supplies, and to create export industries.

  British firms should be able to use their off-shore structure experience to develop designs and construction methods for towers for tidal stream generators. As for wind towers, UK firms will have to go out and sell their designs and methods.


  Even at latitudes of 50 degrees and more North and on cloudy days in the UK the amount of solar energy falling on practicable collector areas is large. UK universities and companies should be assisted in seeking new materials and new designs to raise the efficiency and lower the cost of solar thermal and solar PV systems. This is another field where suitable energy storage systems need to be developed.


  In the UK, renewable energy has so far been looked at as a means of reducing the output of carbon dioxide and as a means of meeting a Kyoto target. It is fundamentally more than that; it is energy supply in its own right. As such, it is a basic means of overcoming the present need to import energy. If renewable energy systems were greatly developed and expanded on the basis that they are indigenous sources of energy in circumstances of a national need for energy, then carbon dioxide emissions would be automatically reduced and present Kyoto targets would be automatically passed.


14.1  An overview

  The account of nuclear power in Appendix C includes the facts that the nuclear energy industry is not economically viable, and that there is the ever-present risk of a major accident leading to a population catastrophe. A major accident may be very rare, but when it does occur it is a long-term human disaster. Building new nuclear power stations to replace the existing ageing ones is not a responsible course in Britain and it should not be adopted.

14.2  Recommendations.

  (i)  No new nuclear power stations should be built.

  (ii)  The lives of existing nuclear power stations should be extended for as long as can reasonably be done.

  (iii)  Oil and gas companies which supply the UK from the North Sea and the Atlantic should be asked to extend the lives of existing fields by further exploration and new extraction methods.

  (iv)  Life extension of oil and gas fields may prove uneconomical, but if it is nevertheless feasible it should then be subsidised. Money that would have been used to subsidise the building of new nuclear power stations could be used.

  (v)  Arrangements should be made with countries from which supplies are reasonably secure to ensure purchases into the medium-term future.

  (vi)  A major programme of expansion of the development and use of alternative sources of energy should be planned and co-ordinated by a national committee of experts set up for the purpose and constituted on a continuing basis.

  (vii)  The committee should vigorously forward the fields of wind, biomass, solar wave, tidal and other sources of energy.

  (viii)  The same or a parallel committee working with it should deal with the demand side, energy saving and energy efficiency.


  This contribution to the Energy Inquiry considers aspects of the Supply Side, and does not discuss the Demand Side, which is as extensive and complex as the Supply side. The availability of sufficient energy is related to energy demand; and energy saving policies and methods are needed at all levels of the national community: industrial, institutional, and domestic. As part of this, building design should now include energy saving as a major feature; and Building Regulations should immediately be reviewed and upgraded so as to include the best possible energy saving practices and devices.


16.1.A.  The energy technology support unit, ETSU

  A major source of advice to the DTI and to its forerunner departments, and thus to the government, on energy matters is the Energy Technology Support Unit, ETSU. This is based at Harwell.

  In universities, each department is periodically required to undergo a Research Assessment Exercise. This is conducted by a team from outside the university concerned; its purpose is to assess the quality and quantity of research being done by the department, and the quality and quantity of research papers being published. The future funding of the department is affected by this review.

16.1.B.  Recommendations

  (a)  A Research Assessment Exercise should immediately be conducted on the Energy Technology Support Unit.

  (b)  The assessment team should not be chosen by the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser.

  (c)  The assessment team should not be chosen by the DTI.

  (d)  The assessment team should consist of senior members from universities, from the energy industries, and from the energy industries Associations, so as to represent high level knowledge and experience of traditional, new and emerging energy sources and systems.

  (e)  The assessment team should examine and assess:

    (i)  The research undertaken in the past and now by ETSU;

    (ii)  The papers published;

    (iii)  The advice given to government departments;

    (iv)  The extent to which the advice given was subsequently found to have been appropriate or inappropriate.

16.2  A United Kingdom Centre of Energy

  There is a need for a United Kingdom Centre for Energy, a centre of scientific and industrial excellence to forward energy developments and manufacturing, and to give advice to government and industry.


  The speed at which a country can advance into a changed economy is dependent almost solely upon the resources of people and money which it is prepared to commit. The rewards of enterprising commitment to energy are great: a diminution of the energy supply problem, and the creation of export industries; a reduction in the adverse balance of trade involved in buying energy from overseas; and an improvement in the balance of trade resulting from exports of equipment, installation skills, and consultancy.

  There is an urgent need for major change. Governments are responsible for bringing about major changes.


  The government should allocate targeted funds on an unprecedented scale to bring about energy advances, in the knowledge that success will bring paybacks to the exchequer in increased employment and in exports.


18.1  The new vision

  RD and D is too limited. For every UK developer and company the aim should now be Research, Develop, Demonstrate, Manufacture and Export.

18.2  The method

  Effective progress requires active purposeful collaboration between central government, universities, industrial firms, local government and communities.

18.3  An outstanding example

  An outstanding example is the approach and achievements of North Rhine-Westfalia. The following passage is from the report "Future Energies from North Rhine-Westfalia" (population 17m) commenting on the progress of a 10 year development plan begun in 1998.

  Introduction: by the minister responsible for Energy.

    "The Land government has sponsored approximately 32,600 projects across the Land since 1988. With our North Rhine-Westfalia State Initiative on future energies, we are promoting modern energy technology systems, products and services which can be marketed both nationally and internationally. In doing so we want to . . . create new jobs with long-term security. This in turn represents a step towards the goal of reducing output of greenhouse gases.

    "More than ever before it is essential to pool the technological resources of our universities and activate them for the benefit of crafts and trades, commerce and industry . . . About 2,800 experts are currently working together in 14 work groups.

    "Only Concentrated and concerted action on the part of industry, government, science, and relevant groups in society can strengthen the energy industry on the liberalised European market and at the same time secure employment in North Rhine-Westfalia."

    Peer Steinbruck, Minister of Economic Affairs, Technology and Transport, North Rhine-Westfalia. (Ref 28)

March 2002

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