Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Campaign for a Hydrogen Economy (CHEC) (U30)

  CHEC proposes two ideas both of which relate to some degree with both the areas of interest detailed in the Terms of Reference of the consultation (ie UK policies on greenhouse gas reductions and role of UK Government as Chair of G8 and President of the European Council).


  1.1  The Sahara has a massive cost-competitive solar energy resource (solar thermal as distinct from more costly PV). Solar thermal collectors, essentially mirrors and their structures, covering just over 1% of the area of the Sahara could supply the equivalent of all global electricity. Significant quantities of drinking water would also be produced in the process.

  1.2  The western plateau in Morocco is a region where there are relatively high wind speeds. The region could supply about 40% of the European Union's electricity.

  1.3  The electricity produced by both solar thermal and wind schemes would be transmitted in both cases by the same cables which would form a Trans-Mediteranean Grid with low-loss (high voltage dc cables passing underneath the Mediteranean Sea at several locations).

  1.4  The scale of the resource would enable Europe to meet much of its energy needs of the future. The electricity could be used to generate hydrogen for transport (including next-generation hydrogen powered aircraft) and for storage as necessary.

  1.5  The development of the Saharan renewable energy resources could significantly improve the environmental performance of Europe and the economic development of Saharan Africa and further afield. Such development could reduce tensions and unwanted migration between Africa and Europe.

  1.6  Much research has been conducted by the "TREC" Development Group (details and pdf below). Note the group includes various partners from the African/Middle Eastern countries rather than a European-led initiative which may be seen as exploitative. Secretary of State Margaret Beckett referred to this issue at the DEFRA conference on Sustainable Development in London earlier this year in a response to a plenary question by the Chairman of CHEC.

  Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation TREC Paper for Arab Thought Forum and Club of Rome, Amman 2003.

  Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation "TREC" for development, climate stabilisation and good neighbourhood

  The TREC Development Group

  Formed by initiative of the German Association for the Club of Rome, and of the Hamburg Climate Protection Foundation

  HKF. Contact addresses:

  Malek Kabariti, Uwe Mller, Gerhard Knies

  1 Names of persons involved: Khalid Benhamou, Saharawind, Morocco; Dr Abdelaziz Bennouna, Centre Nationale de la Recherche, Morocco ; Hans-Jrg Brgmann, Dipl-Ing, Germany; Gregor Czisch, Dipl-Phys, ISET, Germany; Hans-Josef Fell, Member of Parliament, Germany; Dr Ing. Manfred Fischedick, Wuppertal Institut, Germany; Dr Armin Haas, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Global Change & Social Systems, PIK, Germany; Dr Ing. Michael F Jischa, German Association The Club of Rome, Germany; Dr Malek Kabariti, National Energy Research Center, Jordan; Dr Gerhard Knies, Hamburg Climate Protection Foundation HKF, Germany; Harry Lehmann, DiplPhys, ISUSI, Institute for Sustainable Solutions, Germany; Klaus-Peter Lehmann, Dipl-Ing, elexyr, Germany; Dr Paul Metz, European Business Council for a Sustainable Energy, e5, Netherlands; Dr Axel Michaelowa, HWWA, Germany; Uwe Mller, German Association The Club of Rome, Germany; Dr-Ing. Hani El Nokraschy, Germany/Egypt; Honorat Satoguina Dipl. EBA, Benin; Dr Christian-D Sch½nwiese, University of Frankfurt, Germany; Dr-Ing. Franz Trieb, DLR, Germany.

  See the German Aerospace Centre website for research into solar thermal technologies and African/Europen grid connection schemes:



  2.1  There is a substantial resource of tidal energy (height as distinct from stream) particularly in the Severn Estuary, Liverpool Bay and the Thames Estuary which could be exploited by tidal lagoon schemes, a technology proposed and patented by Tidal Electric Ltd. A small number of large lagoons in the Severn Estuary alone could supply about 6% of UK electricity.

  2.2  The company's technology has been reviewed positively by AEA Technology and very recently WS Atkins /ABP (MER). However the technology has been severely hampered by a secret and inaccurate DTI cost briefing to politicians (including Lord Sainsbury, Stephen Timms MP and Welsh Assembly ministers). The inaccurate briefing was based on the estimated output costs of a tiny lagoon scheme proposal in a remote area of Alaska.

  2.3  The economies of scale of the Severn Estuary could not be more different. A small (60MW) scheme is being proposed for Swansea Bay with a generation cost of about 3-3.5 p/kWhr. Larger schemes would likely be in the 2-3 p/kWhr range. Lagoons in the Severn Estuary are considered to be a far preferable option than the Severn Barrage by it least one major environmental group

  2.4  TE Ltd would like at least some positive comment from the DTI to at least not dissuade investor interest or discourage the Crown Estate's co-operation. However, if capital funds were available for specific scheme environmental assessment at least or some policy which could enable a government LOAN for a 10 year pay-back period then the available resource might significantly be developed before 2020.

  2.5  The construction of any particular scheme would be dependent on an environmental assessments and other planning and navigational considerations. Lagoon structures could actually provide wildlife habitat and a coastal defence role.

  2.6  For further information about tidal lagoons and the company Tidal Electric Ltd contact: or visit the Tidal Electric website.


  Inception: CHEC was founded in 2001 (initially as the now superseded HEAUKI) as a first attempt in the UK (and Ireland) to highlight the central role which hydrogen must play in reducing our dependence on carbon-rich fossil fuels. The aim has always been to bring to the attention of all concerned—the voting public, specialists in climate, oceans, biodiversity, energy and the associated politics—the increasing threat which such fuels pose to the whole earth system (and hence to ourselves), and to make the case for renewably generated hydrogen as the fuel of choice for all human needs.

  CHEC gained a properly devised constitution in November 2002, limited company status in February 2003 and registered charity status in November 2003.  In June this year we established our website: . This site is at an early stage, but we have secured the help of an experienced and sympathetic web designer to develop and enhance this site. We now have a committee of nine with a wide spread of age, skill and background. We are united in basing our belief in the future of hydrogen on its importance in the protection of the climate and the hydrosphere, the improvement of air quality and the role it must play in reducing political conflict and enhancing collaboration across borders.

  Activities 2003-04: We have divided our time and efforts between education, publicity, knowledge-gathering and climate activities.

  Education: We have given seminars at school and university level on climate change and its necessary relationship to the hydrogen economy. We have given courses to senior citizens groups, and run two 12 week courses on climate change (and hydrogen) as an evening class for the people of Manchester.

  Publicity: To the best of our ability we have "pushed" the notion of the hydrogen economy at the media both nationally and locally. CHEC is now known as a point of reference to several local radio stations, and has endeavoured, not always with success, to place letters and articles in the print media.

  Knowledge-gathering: We consider it an important part of our remit to survey the whole environmental field, and all the associated issues which arise. We have participated in a revealing (and alarming) conference (2003) in Brussels on the future of the EU's energy supplies (almost entirely natural gas, apparently), and attended many events concerning renewable energy (eg the British Wind Energy Association July 2004, the Building Research Establishment June 2004, the Grove Fuelcell Conference 2003). And we have ensured that the results of these visits are available and accessible at the CHEC office. They will certainly be put onto the website, in abbreviated form, in the near future.

  Climate activities: one of the founding "energies" for the creation of CHEC was the realisation that delegates returning to the UK from the annual unfccc conferences (eg Kyoto 1997, the Hague 2000) had heard nothing (and said nothing) about the promise of hydrogen as a climate-friendly fuel. Even (and perhaps above all) the environmentally aware groups such as WWF, Greenpeace, RSPB and the Climate Action Network) simply refused to take hydrogen "on board". Since then it has been CHEC's aim to attend all these major conferences. Of the four conferences since then, we have had a presence at Bonn (2001), Marrakesh (2001), and Milan (2003), only omitting (because of expense) New Delhi in 2002.  We are now raising funds to facilitate the attendance of three or four delegates to the next unfccc conference, in Argentina in December 2004.  

  Plans and projects for 2004-05: The committee now aims to build on the experience of the past three years so as to become effective at the level which counts most in a democracy—the electoral level. It strikes us as supremely important that the voting public should be aware of the following features of our climate, air quality and related fuelling systems:

    (1)  The near certitude that climate change is an established fact, that it will incur damaging changes to our total environment, to all the "spheres": atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, biosphere and so on.

    (2)  The air quality (indoors and outdoors) of our towns, cities and countryside is threatened by the same overriding menace as is our climate—the direct and indirect effects of the use of fossil fuels.

    (3)  Our present dependence on fossil fuels is a historical accident, and not a necessity ordained by nature and technology. The alternative—renewably generated hydrogen, which lends itself to energy storage, combustion energy, electrical energy and mechanical energy—is already within reach, and merely requires investment, development and political commitment for it to come into being.


  It is our aim in 2004, 2005 and thereafter to:

    (1)  Gain official accreditation to the unfccc (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), so as to attend all its conferences as named hydrogen-based campaigners rather than as guests of less focused umbrella organisations. The first moves to acquire this status have already been taken.

    (2)  Build an effective website so as to reach out to the citizens of the UK and beyond with the hydrogen "message". This site will comprise data, opinions (including "dissident" opinions), an FAQ section and occasional pieces written by interested parties. It will also contain easily downloadable A4 "sheets" for teachers to have free instructional material at school level.

    (3)  Construct improved demonstration machinery to show the public (i) how a carbon dioxide-rich volume of air responds to incoming infrared rays, and (ii) how easy it is to generate hydrogen from water by solar radiation and by other forms of renewably generated electricity, both on land and marine. This machinery will be scrupulously arranged so as not to "cheat" its way into an audience's appreciation; its role as an indicator and its limitations will be carefully set out.

    (4)  Build closer relationships with policy makers, politicians and their advisers so as to increase their level of "hydrogen awareness".

    (5)  Cultivate a special relationship with Africa. In the view of CHEC it is in the interests both of Africa and of Europe to work together to develop an interlocked hydrogen economy. For Africa there would be the opportunity to gain a powerful indigenous tool for development—clean and inexhaustible renewable fuel and electrical energy, and a permanently tradeable commodity—and for Europe a generous supply of energy to meet her already heavy demands. CHEC would undertake to examine the ramifications of such an arrangement regarding the EU, the WTO, TRIPS, the larger fossil fuel companies, African countries which already gain foreign exchange from the export of oil and gas, and so on. CHEC has already established contacts with African delegates to unfccc conferences, and will work to make these contacts fruitful.

    (6)  Undertake the search for funding and staffing which would facilitate the aims above. CHEC has already benefited from several funders who have supported the running of the office over three years, but not (so far) with enough money to pay for salaries and expansion. We are now confident that we will attract the resources which we need.

1 October 2004

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