Clean Power hydrogen economy Sweden

Published on June 30th, 2016 | by Tina Casey


One Step Closer To The Hydrogen Economy Dream

June 30th, 2016 by  

The term hydrogen economy was coined back in 1970 by the noted and controversial electrochemist Bernhardt Patrick John O’Mara Bockris. Ever since then, researchers and policymakers have been poring over the feasibility of an “ultimate economy” based on a cheap, abundant fuel with no greenhouse gas emissions. It’s been slow going, but a research team from Sweden has discovered a pathway to getting the planet closer to the “cheap” aspect.

hydrogen economy Sweden

What’s The Matter With The Hydrogen Economy?

A 2006 United Nations report outlines the allure of the hydrogen economy, along with some important caveats.

Hydrogen does not produce greenhouse gas emissions when burned directly, or when combined with oxygen in a fuel cell. However, hydrogen is only as clean as its source, and currently the primary source of hydrogen is natural gas and other fossil sources.

That’s beginning to change with the rise of low cost wind and solar energy. Renewable energy can be deployed to produce hydrogen from water through electrolysis (that’s fancyspeak for the application of an electrical current).

The emergence of power-to-gas systems demonstrates how hydrogen can dovetail with wind and solar, since it can be deployed as an energy storage strategy for intermittent energy sources.

Hydrogen production could also help offset the cost of desalination or municipal wastewater treatment.

However, for the water-to-hydrogen equation to work on a mainstream scale, the cost factor has to be addressed.

One key element in the cost of hydrogen production is the cost of the catalyst used in electrolysis, and that’s where the new research comes in.

A Pathway To Low Cost Hydrogen

The new hydrogen research is from a team at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

The researchers note that in the current state of technology, the highest performing catalysts are iridium oxide and ruthenium oxide, which are based on rare precious metals.

Aside from being generally expensive, such materials are vulnerable to global geopolitical and economic forces that result in supply chain issues and price spikes.

So, the hunt has been on for abundant, low cost replacements.

If you’re interested on some background about this hunt, check out the team’s hydrogen paperNickel–vanadium monolayer double hydroxide for efficient electrochemical water oxidation” in the journal Nature Communications, in which they outline the goal of achieving results comparable to NiFe-LDH (that’s nickel-iron layered double hydroxide).

The team hit upon vanadium for their solution, deploying a “simple” one-step hydrothermal process to synthesize a monolayered double hydroxide involving nickel and vanadium (NiV-LDH).

Structurally, the material consists of interconnected nickel-vanadium oxygen polyhedron. The whole thing is less than one nanometer thick. It acts to increase the surface area of the catalyst (which is always a good thing), and it provides for more efficient electron transfer:

In this work, we incorporate another earth-abundant element into Ni(OH)2: vanadium, and succeed in forming NiV-LDH as an efficient catalyst for the water oxidation reaction…NiV-LDH catalyst exhibits comparable activity to the best-performing NiFe-LDH for water oxidation in alkaline electrolyte.

According to the team, this is the first time that vanadium has been combined with nickel hydroxide for use as a catalyst in electrolysis. It performed “beyond expectations” and the results indicate a “competitive, cheap alternative to catalysts that rely on more expensive, precious materials.”

The team also anticipates that further R&D along these lines could yield low cost, abundant catalysts that outperform ruthenium and iridium.

What’s In It For Sweden?

Sweden is among several nations looking into power-to-gas for the sparkling green hydrogen economy of the future — or at least, as a key element in achieving a low carbon economy sooner rather than later:

…it will be a question of a system solution that links the need to store electricity on a large scale with the need to produce more renewable fuels. Through to 2030, it is estimated that 2–3 TWh of gas could be produced through Power to Gas. At present, biogas production stands at 1.6 TWh, and this technology could thus provide a valuable injection of energy and contribute to realizing the political target of fossil-free road traffic by 2030.

Sweden has some catching up to do — about 30 power-to-gas pilot plants are already online or under construction in Europe.

The last we heard, a feasibility study is wrapping up and a pilot power-to-gas plant is in the works for Gothenburg, Sweden, so stay tuned for that.

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Image (screenshot): via KTH.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Beau Baker

    This is very interesting. I am a researcher at the Colorado Fuel Cell Center, so I’m super involved with the science part of fuel cell development, but I’m not very well-versed in the political and financial part of the process. Thanks for the post.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Uninteresting, Daniel.

    Hydrogen is too expensive. Hydrogen FCEVs are a dead evolutionary branch.

    You can tinker around the edges with improving the infrastructure but you can’t get around the laws of physics.

    If you are math challenged and can’t figure out why hydrogen is not going to be what stores energy for our vehicles then please set up your own site and you can entertain yourself there.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Daniel, you’re going through stuff that’s been covered over and over on this site and, frankly, most people are tired of it.

    No one ever said that there were physical laws that would prevent wind and solar from becoming affordable.

    EIA predictions are 100% worthless. Pure junk.

    At this point there is no low carbon solution for transoceanic shipping. As far as I know no one has started working on that problem. I would guess the current contacts would be a synthetic fuel or biofuel. As I stated earlier hydrogen might be a step in the process to a more usable liquid fuel. It’s unlikely we’d use hydrogen for shipping (or flying). It’s too bulky.

    Batteries are on track to becoming cheap enough cover “few day” needs. As I have already covered, pump-up hydro and flow batteries offer affordable, deep storage and both are highly efficient.

    Hydrogen is simply an inefficient storage method.

    Please don’t repeat points that have already been covered.

    • Sorry, I forgot that this was a pointscoring exercise and outright hypocrisy and barefaced lies were the order of the day. You remain the font of all knowledge and wisdom..

      • Bob_Wallace

        Don’t try to start a pissing match, Daniel.

  • Bob_Wallace

    $5.60 per 60 miles = 9.3 cents per mile.

    $4 per 60 miles = 6.7 cents per mile.

    EVs using $0.12c/kWh and 0.3 kWh per mile = 4 cents per mile.

    EV charging rates for EV is likely to be lower than the average retail rate. PG&E is charging $0.09c/kWh which = 3 cents per mile.

    A few points:

    1) Your hydrogen/gasoline comparison seems to be using taxes gasoline and untaxed hydrogen.

    2) Your hydrogen price may not be a “distributed to your neighborhood gas station” price. Can’t tell. Your link is broken.

    3) EVs are going to be one third to one half less per mile to fuel/charge. Price per mile is part of the picture. They are also more convenient to drive. Just plug in when you park and you’ll be charged up and ready to go when you leave. With H2, gasoline or diesel you have to interrupt your day and travel to a filling station.

    4) A while back Toyota stated that it currently costs 16 cents a mile to fuel their Mirai and that in the future it might drop to 10 cents.

    • 1)The taxes paid at the pump for gasoline are approximately equal to the subsidies they receive to keep the industry afloat, and thats not even including American actions in the Persian Gulf which were arguably motivated by the need to secure oil resources.
      2)This is the price of hydrogen distributed with all associated costs included – link is now fixed
      3)I agree that EVs are cheaper, and will remain so for urban commuters
      4)This just shows how rapidly the cost of hydrogen has decreased. Remember that NG for steam reformation cost up to 500% more around 2008-2009, as did oil.

      • Bob_Wallace

        1) Meaningless. You were comparing taxed gasoline to non-taxed hydrogen.
        3) Electricity is cheaper for urban, suburban, and rural drivers. It’s cheaper for short drives and very long drives.

        4) It takes about 3x as much electricity to drive a mile when hydrogen is used as the storage medium as when batteries are used for storage.

        • My argument here is that the cost of setting up hydrogen production for transport and industry will pay for itself many times over as the century wears on. I agree that EVs are the next immediate step towards decarbonisation, but we should not lose sight of the very real progress being made both in renewable energy production for storage and for other applications, and fuel cells. If the world decides to start fracking then what little water remains in aquifers will be polluted, and its already been noted that fracking itself causes more pollution than coal. The efficiencies of hydrogen are potentially similar to batteries, as the technology progresses. Many different industrial processes and functions are going to require cost-effective fuel cells and hydrogen if we are to fully decarbonise in the timeframe many advocates are calling for.

          • Bob_Wallace

            ” The efficiencies of hydrogen are potentially similar to batteries, as the technology progresses. ”

            Not at all. It takes considerable energy to break the hydrogen/oxygen bond in order to free the H2.

            It takes considerable energy to compress the H2.

            The laws of physics are in control here.

            You can’t store energy as hydrogen as efficiently at today’s batteries can store energy. That’s not going to change.

            Hydrogen, at best, will remain a relatively expensive fuel. (Probably best converted to a liquid fuel for easier transportation and storage.) There may be some niches where the higher cost might be justified. At least until batteries move above 400 watt/kg. At some point within the theoretical limits of batteries we can store as much energy per area with batteries as with hydrogen.


  • Julian Cox

    I doesn’t. It is an environmentally genocidal fraud. Japan pushes it because they have a 100 years worth of SMR feedstock in their territorial waters called Methane Hydrates or “fire ice”. They destabilise that, the human race dies. If that is what counts for environmentalism then in a few tens of millions of years then I am sure the environment will be quite lovely for whatever new life evolves from whatever fungus survives that catastrophe.

    • nakedChimp

      Maybe not all of us have to die in that event?
      Some rich and important surely will make it in their bunker, no?
      And maybe if they then concentrate all efforts on SpaceX they can emigrate to Mars for a fresh start.
      Anyone living a couple parsecs further away couldn’t care less what we naked idiots do over here anyway.

      • Julian Cox

        No. There is no possibility of human life or anything with a beating heart surviving what Japan is currently risking on your behalf as a matter of insanity. The last time something like this happened the planet was practically sterilised. 96% of all life on Earth died.

        They are risking setting off the Clathrate Gun by screwing with Clathrates. Please google that term – Clathrate Gun – and Permian Extinction for good measure.

        • Frank

          I googled Calthrate gun. Why do you think what Japan is contemplating would “pull the trigger”? Seems people are more worried about talik’s, where areas with calthrates under them melt.

          • Julian Cox
          • Frank

            Thanks. Is the seawater warm enogh to release the methane if it comes into contact with it? This is nothing like some story I remember from a long time ago about vacuming methane hydrates off of the ocean floor.

          • eveee

            Yes. Seawater is warm enough to release methan from clathrate its brought up from the colder, deeper depths. But that’s exactly the goal. It occasionally boubles up to the surface off the Oregon Coast. Even worse if the ocean heats more. That’s one of the worries. If we are worried about releasing clathrates from ocean warming, we should be terrified of stirring them up with intentional mining.


            You probably read something like a Popular Science story that looked at it on the bright side. But we already have massive methane releases from Alisso Canyon and fracking and oil drilling and coal. This is going after the big Cajuna. This is methane that has been frozen under pressure at the bottom of the ocean for eons, and probably part of the reason we are in a climate age the way we are now, which is still considered an “Ice” age, that is, a period in which ice exists at the year round poles and sea level was much higher. It was not always so. For vast stretches of time, the earth had no year round ice at the poles. When the era shifted, vast amounts of methane accumulated at the bottom of the ocean. It’s bad enough warming the ocean without dragging frozen methane to the surface. Once it’s disturbed, it floats to the surface. Trying to get at it without letting it get away is at best

          • Epicurus

            I wonder if we aren’t in the early stages of a temperature death spiral already.

        • eveee

          Yes. Japan seems to be copying US motto. You can count on the US doing the right thing – after it has tried everything else. First nuclear in a seismic country, now this.

          And there is no excuse. Japan has way more renewables than Germany and doesn’t even come close to using them effectively.

          “As the debate triggered by the Fukushima disaster opens up a profound public energy conversation, Japan is starting to see those tremendous buildings efficiency opportunities—and to realize that it is the richest in renewable energy (wind, solar, and marine in particular) of any major industrial country. Japan has twice the per-hectare high-quality renewable potential of North America, three times that of Europe, and nine times that of Germany. Yet Japan’s renewable share of electricity generation is one-ninth that of Germany—so its renewable power exploitation is exactly the opposite of its relative endowment!”

    • Frank

      I know if all methane hydrates cut loose, it would be really bad, but if it were able to produce it safely, and displace fracked gas, till renewables take over, it might not be so bad, but I’m not sure how much money I would put into developing it, when you can get renewables for such an attractive price these days.

      • Julian Cox

        Halting this is an emergency. No ifs, no buts. This is necessitated by the common and indivisible self interest of every man woman and child on Earth. Some forms of stupidity are survivable, others are selfish. Not this, this is flirting with a form of mass genocide that the perpetrator has no chance to escape. Nobody does. Everybody should be consulted. Nobody should be BS’d about “Dreams of a Hydrogen Economy” from this stuff.

        • Epicurus

          Once it becomes obvious that we are in a temperature death spiral, will climate change deniers be shot dead in the streets by angry mobs?

      • eveee

        The clathrate a will be brought up to the surface one way or another. It has to warm up and reduce pressure to become gas. If they are disturbed from their frozen, high pressure domain, it’s unlikely that any mining activity will control their dispersal. That’s like poking a beehive with a stick.

        • Epicurus

          I wonder if we aren’t in the early stages of a temperature death spiral already.

          • eveee

            See how selfish individual private interest adds up to common good? Something is wrong about that theory.

          • Epicurus

            It’s such a ridiculous theory on its face, it’s laughable. Only people who believe in the Garden of Eden and Noah’s ark could possibly believe it.

            “Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”

      • Epicurus

        If all methane hydrates melt, we and most species are dead. I wonder if we aren’t in the early stages of a temperature death spiral already.

    • eveee

      Methane hydrates are just another way of releasing more carbon. What could be more dangerous than releasing massive amounts of methane that might leak and methane is a much more potent GHG than CO2.

      • Julian Cox

        There are two main threats facing humanity right now in the immediate and in no particular order:

        1. Collapse of the Petrodollar in a Nuclear WW3.
        2. Exploitation of Methane Hydrates for Hydrogen.

        3. Runaway climate change independent of (2).

        Both of the immediate threats are shrouded from general public knowledge by deliberate and massive public deception.

        • So really what you are saying here, Julian, is that you are in fact a very strong proponent of the petrodollar economy, where economists are still falsely pursuing the ideology that oil is the only true wealth…this stuff is boring and I think its timely now to start moving on from a resource that far from contributing to the greater American good, has bankrupted it.

          At best, my opinion is that the petrodollar quotient of the American economy is about 10% of its overall revenue. At worst, I would say it is quickly becoming irrelevant in light of the extremely low oil price, the Saudis selling their entire reserves (!), and other factors that will continually undermine its status; notably the concept of a global carbon budget, carbon pricing and ‘stranded assets’.

          For all your talk of truth & honesty, I can’t help feeling that your ‘Japanese Methane Clathrates Mining’ rhetoric is somewhat misleading, if not a carefully crafted distraction where really there is little room left for such machinations.

  • Julian Cox

    Not sure why Hydrogen promotion is not yet a criminal offense punishable by proper jail time at the very least in a jail with no internet connection. It needs to stop now.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Dreamers gotta dream.

      Don’t take it personally.

      There’s a whole basketful of improbable stuff that just won’t go away. Solar roads has made another comeback. Little wind turbines, especially vertical axis, have zombie like characteristics.

      • Julian Cox

        Of course I take it personally. There is no way of isolating the damage. This threat is personal to anyone and everyone unless they are childless and resigned to be the last generation on earth.

      • Julian Cox

        Bob, Zach.

        Look at the references for this piece.

        The allure of the hydrogen economy, source UN 2006. Report authored by this crowd:

        Inputs from amongst others Shell and Linde.

        Sparkling Hydrogen future:

        Source. Swedgas. Operators of Swedens primary natural gas terminal. (Just hit the home page on Tina’s link).

        This is information pollution that represents a direct assault on every good that Cleantechnica stands for. Literally environmental fraud and gross public deception.

        Hydrogen has absolutely no other purpose besides a fossil fuel industry push to subvert and undermine renewables and it is the one thing above all else that the environmental movement needs to be united against and NOT suckered by.

        • Frank

          I think of this water splitting hydrogen thing as potentially usefull in a couple of special cases. 1. As maybe a battery when combined with a fuel cell for long term storage on the grid that only makes hydrogen when renewables are over producing. I think all the short term stuff will be battery, pumped hydro, or flywheel.. Maybe could be mixed with natgas, or used as a feedstock. But hydrogen economy. Nah, electric economy. This is a side issue.

          • Julian Cox

            I would love to agree with you but it isn’t true.

            Japan until recently was the second largest world economy. Overtaken by arch rival China.

            How do they become number 2 again or even number 1? Stop the oil and natural gas dependency they are afflicted with.


            Dig up their own Methane Hydrates.

            What to do with wet methane?

            Stick it in an SMR reactor. (Steam Reformer).

            What do you get?

            Hydrogen (and CO2)

            Why is the Model 3 not the end of this nightmare?

            See Tina’s first link. This thing is contemplated on such a vast scale that they plan to put the hydrogen into electricity generation. So what if you run an EV if the electricity for it comes from Hydrogen.

            Why is the world not stopping this?

            Fossil Fuel industry the world over sees this as a way of slipping Natural Gas from Fracking and exhausted Oil wells past environmental regulations.

            Why does Shell, BP, Exxon etc etc etc think a Carbon Tax is just fine?

            This. They plan to bend national governments the same way they bent California. By measuring tailpipe emissions and coming up empty instead of measuring well to wheel.

            That’s the thinking.

          • Frank

            I see what you are contemplating, but I think they are just going to burn the gas in a gas combined cycle generator. I think what you are suggesting costs too much.

        • eveee

          It’s the fraud that slowed EV introduction in California with 5x ZEV credits for hydrogen compared to EVs. I don’t know how they managed to slip in that sham. CARB is famous for its doozey hydrogen ideas.

          They are a still spending millions on hydrogen infrastructure despite the Model 3. And Toyota is an ostrich with its head in the sand with the Mirai. They will all be run over by time and the future. But we need to hold their feet to the fire and force them to remember their mistakes.
          Those that forget the past will be condemned to repeat it.

  • Joe Viocoe

    As soon as I see these headlines that are so far removed from reality… I just scroll down to see Tina’s name.

    She takes every bit of fluff press release, and calls it progress.

    • JonathanMaddox

      It’s a scientific discovery. That’s what I call progress.

      The headline is fluff; the press release wasn’t and neither is the detail of the article.

  • eveee

    Here is the deal. Power 2 gas is nice. It’s possibly do able pretty soon. It’s probably better to convert it to liquid for storage and to transport it. It’s not really the hydrogen economy at all.
    So there are a few more steps to making it practical and some implementation. So far so good.

    Not so transport. There is no reasonable route to hydrogen fuel cell transport. There are too many efficiency losses and too many costly steps and the results don’t come close to the cost, performance, and efficiency of today’s EVs. It’s too late for them to catch up. They got beat to market by Tesla Model 3, and the party is over. That’s not even considering the insurmountable infrastructure cliff.

    • There are a few technical issues with your critique of what actually is going to be the hydrogen economy. First of all, most of the practical steps are already figured out. A modern PEM electrolyser (2015) takes in water and uses electricity to make the gas and compress it to 700 bars in one process. The efficiency of this entire process is about 70% – and more with heat recovery. The electrolyser has fast dynamic response times making it perfectly suitable for renewable energy sources.

      However, these electrolysers are about one megawatt, and therefore do not have the overall efficiency gains of larger-scale systems. Advancing this, both 3-4 MW and 100 MW electrolysers are in the process of construction, with the 100 MW system designed specifcally for wind farms being made commercially available by 2018.

      The storage issue can be solved in a number of ways, notably either in depleted NG caverns, which enables a very large quantity to be produced, or within existing gas supply networks by mixing the hydrogen with biogas (methane) or recycled CO2 from some other source, usually a factory. This allows tWh’s of gas to be stored, and used conventionally in CCGTs and the like. The other route here is plastic pipes which enable pure hydrogen to be transported exactly like NG.

      Adding a tank and a pump to an existing filling station is not the difficulty many would like to imagine it is. Filling this tank by truck is not an issue. 400 stations are set to be fitted with a pump in Germany by 2023. A hydrogen refueling station producing hydrogen on-site is more expensive, but will come down in price. California plans to have 87 full HRS’s by 2020, 300 in Japan by 2025 and 500 in Korea by 2030. As Toyota explains, the first 1 milllion Prius vehicles took 10 years to sell. Since 2012, they are now selling 1 million every year.

      With regards to efficiency, the current rate of about 70% is not really the factor to be looking at – its the combined cost of electricity and plant. The overall cost per 100km will be reduced from today’s $5.60 (dispensed at the pump) to $4.00 by 2020, following the DOE figures. So we can see a rapid cost reduction, which is only likely to increase in pace as time goes on.

      Considering the Iraq war cost in the region of $13 trillion dollars, and it would take something like $500 billion to completely replace conventional pumps in the US with hydrogen producing stations overnight, it seems like a waste not to pursue this innovative energy medium.

      • Bob_Wallace

        As I pointed out earlier $4 for H2 is two to three times more expensive per mile than driving with electricity. And inconvenient.

        The infrastructure for running on electricity is almost in place. We just need outlets for about half the cars and about 30% more generation.

        Were we to use H2 we’d have to install a heck of a lot more wind turbines and solar panels.

        Hydrogen is too inefficient.

        • Batteries are not able to cope with utility scale electricity storage, they will not power buildings, ships and trucks, and they will not replace NG in CCGTs. The well-to-wheel efficiency of oil from extraction to refinery to the combusion engine is less than 20%. Fuel cell efficiencies are increasing exponentially with no signs of slowing down – from $5.60 per kg today to $4.00 in 3.5 years time. If fuel cells and electrolysers both continue to come down in price the applications of these technologies are a far greater prize than the gains in battery cost reduction, and this has huge implications for the planet. Not only does electricity no longer need to be stored, in effect, twice – once after being produced by renewable energy sources and a second time in your car – it is simply stored once, for an indefinite period, before being used in any one of a vast array of different applications, in fuel cells or otherwise.

          Offshore wind farms in the North Sea alone can supply Europe’s energy needs hundreds of times over. The same can be said for deserts and solar. There is no problem with potential renewable energy supply, its a fact. Transport only consumes 20% of the worlds energy produced.

          Hydrogen solves the storage and scalability equations in one go.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Pump-up hydro and flow batteries can do mass storage at much higher efficiency.

            We can switch freight to electrified rail.

            “Offshore wind farms in the North Sea alone can supply Europe’s energy needs hundreds of times over. The same can be said for deserts and solar.”
            That’s meaningless. The important issue is cost. Hydrogen is simply too expensive.

      • eveee

        We have some experience with NG caverns leaking at Alisso Canyon. Hydrogen is even more apt to leak. Hydrogen cannot be used in existing NG gas networks. The pipes become brittle and they are not designed to prevent hydrogen leakage. On site hydrogen generation is expensive. It is a waste to pursue this medium for transportation. Why?
        Because the same 500 billion could provide way more EV transportation for less .
        Face it. The Mirai is a failure and the hydrogen refueling networks don’t exist. The cost of renewable generated hydrogen from hydrolysis is so high that getting it from NG is much cheaper and that is what will be done. The carbon dioxide releases from that process are worse than burning it directly.
        Hydrolysis, transporting the gas, storing and compressing it, and recovering the energy and converting it to electricity is a long and wasteful process with losses in efficiency every step of the way. Squandering valuable renewables and money to do this instead of using them to make more EVs like the Model 3 and more wind and solar is a waste of both time and money that only further delays the reduction of carbon we need badly.
        Don’t be duped.
        Hydrogen is neither efficient, nor cheap. It’s is a dead end that has wasted money and stalled the development of better technology like EVs that are now so superior to FCEVs that FCEVs have no chance in the market. If you have not figured that out by looking at 375,000 Model 3 reservations, a car with range and acceleration, versus the Mirai , slow car that costs more and can’t be refueled because of the dismal number of stations, then you might not get the picture.

        • Actually the figure for 100 refueling stations for the top 100 American cities is

          100×100 = 10,000 filling stations
          ~$2,000,000 per filling station (onsite production)
          = 10,000×2,000,000 = $20 billion.

          So the total cost of having a fairly complete hydrogen production infrastructure is actually a lot less than some people are inclined to believe.

  • omar

    good news for Japan and Toyota

  • Marcel van Nes

    Does the water coming in to make more Hydrogen have to be 100% pure?

    • harisA

      They will need pure water to protect their catalysts and then add some pure salts for conductivity.

  • Frank

    I would be interested in how close any of this water splitting stuff is to making financial sense.

    • JamesWimberley

      We all know that ultimately commercial deployment on a large scale depends on competitive pricing. But we should give fundamental researchers like these Swedes a break. It’s not a recipe for scientific progress to worry about costs too early. Vanadium and nickel are much, much commoner and cheaper than ruthenium and iridium. That’s good enough to make the avenue worth exploring.

      • Frank

        For sure, and maybe capital costs might be more important than efficiency if you only run it when you have renewables over producing and prices are very low. But I’m still curious how much of a leap the tech would have to make to get there.

        • Ninjaneerd

          I’m interested in the economics if the power were free. I imagine an engineered demand response industry that is guaranteed X hours per day of free electricity when CO2 free generation is over producing.

          They just need to be able to spin up and down quickly. Some desal designs are capable of doing this.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m not sure that will happen. At least often enough to matter.

            As we move to a 100% renewable grid we will be adding EVs and storage. Both are opportunistic loads, they can hold back when prices are high (supply stretched) and suck up power when prices are low. I suspect we’ll have a fair amount of pump-up hydro and/or flow batteries with enormous holding tanks that will be able to use a lot of power when it’s available. Add in other dispatchable loads such as municipal water towers, ice/cold storage for building AC assist.

            Then there will be more transmission lines. If region A has power to spare it could be sent to region B who could use it and turn off their hydro systems, saving water for later use.

            And, lastly, free is not going to happen. Free is a current artifact of having a lot of hard to cycle thermal generation (coal and nuclear) that would rather sell at a loss than cycle. Add to that the production tax credits that wind and solar receive that allow them to sell for almost zero. Coal and nuclear will disappear. Subsidies will expire.

          • Ninjaneerd

            Well, it happens now, generators have paid to have their power used (although without tax credits it might not happen in this case) and utilities have even had negative pricing during over generation.

            California is looking at demand response as one of the paths to achieve their clean energy goals, I’m just proposing a different business model for the same thing.

            Really though, we just need to see accurate price signals about energy costs at a much more discrete intervals. These correct price signals will tell investors how where to funnel money towards research.

            I agree about storage, that’s going to be HUGE! V2G as storage sounds great, but we’re going to need those price signals and smart contracts. Connecting grids both helps smooth out regional imbalances like you mentioned and strengthens the network against generation drops or usage spikes.

            Free already happens on an average time basis with some demand response programs and I suspect it will continue. All I’m proposing is a different way to look at it that may give some businesses the financial stability to move into the market.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yes, it happens now. But only due to a combination of thermal plants not wanting to cycle and wind/solar being able to sell for ~$0.00/kWh and still make a profit.

            During the first ten years of operation wind and solar get a 2.3 cents tax credit for every kWh they send to the grid. With very low operating expenses wind and solar can bid in at about zero and if their bid is accepted they can profit from the PTC.

            Subsidy programs go away in about three years and existing contracts will all have run out ten years later. So zero, close to zero, less than zero prices are time limited.

            Once we move past subsidies there’s no reason that wind and solar farms are going to give their power away for free. They’ll just curtail if they can’t make money.

            And the grid is not going to transport electricity from wind/solar farm to whoever wants to use it for free.

            Free? Doubt it.

            Low priced? Sometimes. But someone will be waiting to suck it up.

            Consider someone with a 200+ mile EV and a normal driving day of about 20 miles. They might have a personal minimum (get to the hospital, whatever) of 50 miles.

            On a tight supply night the grid might charge them up to only 70 miles. The 50 minimum + the 20 for the next day. (That might be done with price signals or letting the grid control charging times/levels.)

            A strong system moves through the area. Lot of extra wind. EV charges up those extra 130 or so miles at a bargain price.

          • Ninjaneerd

            Wind may have more of a reason to curtail in trying to reduce material cycle stress but it’s harder to make that argument with solar, including solar thermal. Curtailment for no other reason is just implemented inefficiency, that’s not too bright. Contracts to buy generation could include mandatory production for anything other than routine maintenance.

            As far as EVs as storage, I don’t think the grid will be making that decision. How does the grid know your driver doesn’t need 200 miles that next day? Pricing signals and smart contracts seem to solve this efficiently. I’m open for better ideas but I haven’t heard them yet.

          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, let’s role play.

            Curtain opens to see me, a solar farm operator, talking to you…

            “I ain’t givin’ you no free electricity. You want it? You pay me something.”

            Curtain falls….

            If you’re going on vacation then put it on your calendar. A really smart grid will fill you up ahead of time using the best priced electricity.

          • Ninjaneerd

            ==Curtain opens==
            Presumably the solar farm produces more than 1 MW so currently it has a contract with the utility anyway.

            The solar farm operator would be talking to the utility that partnered in the contract. Their agreement, like I mentioned previously could include mandatory production for anything other than routine maintenance. Overall the farm is getting paid just fine, but the contract is written so that to play the game (get paid when prices are expensive), they need to keep production going when they aren’t as well. To incentivize this, they could get a bonus for a high percentage of production hours (it’s in their contract, but to avoid extraneous “maintenance downtime”). Again, curtailment for no other reason is just implemented inefficiency, that’s not too bright.
            ==Curtain is still open==

            IOU demand response programs provide huge incentives for businesses to load shift now, my proposal is just a different way to look at the same problem. Also, demand response is something we do now and California has in it’s plans for the future. My proposal really isn’t a radical departure from what we do now, it just could allow some stability in pricing to allow businesses to fill in this market.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Utilities are not going to contract for a lot of electricity they can’t use. There may be a few hours a year when they can’t use all they’ve got under contract.

            People seem to have an idea that there’s a lot of unused electricity that’s “going to waste”. That seems to have come from times at which there was some stranded generation due to inadequate transmission. Take a look at the graph below and see how that sort of “free” electricity goes away as the system matures. Look in particular at Texas/ERCOT on the left where, I suspect, this myth arose.

            The grid won’t give you electricity for nothing. They’ll just tell the wind/solar farm to curtail and pay them based on what could have been produced.

            You want the electricity? Pay for it.

          • I think the point that many people are missing here is not that utilities need to match demand precisely, or that there is a danger of too much renewable energy. The point is that hydrogen produced by wind and solar is already cheaper than gasoline at the pump right now. Rather than let the EV industry lose sight of an integrated electricity & energy system encompassing agriculture, industry, home heating & cooling, and transport – we need to see the bigger picture and realise that the technology is already here, at a lower price than conventional fossil fuels. I think its crazy so many people seem not to be able to grasp the fundamental shift that has now occured.

          • OneHundredbyFifty

            Bid and ask. Look at how the NASDAQ stock exchange works. This is very simple. With 200 mile batteries people don’t need them fully charged. They can set up a charge algorithm that says charge me to 50% no matter what, to 70% if electricity is at the average price and 90% if electricity is below $0.03 / kWhr. Of course drivers would set up their algorithms to suit their driving habits. And the car would come with some predesigned algorithms to make things easy. The point is that this is really easy as soon as we have time of use metering. The next step is real time pricing which will completely break the back of coal and leave gas peakers as the only really viable way to profitably generate with gas.

          • eveee

            I dont think accelerated degradation is a problem if you are transferring 6.6 kwhrs a day using your 60khwr car battery with 30 mile daily commute. It’s extremely non linear and you get paid well for peak rates and tier rates. In San Diego, there is as much as a 30c time of use differential day/night during the summer. That’s a lot. Tier rates yank California electricity from 15c/kwhr up to past 36c/kwhr in a hurry. That’s the reason SolarCity has made inroads there. They could put enough solar to displace the way higher rate electricity with 17c/kwhr from solar and beat the super highe over 30c/kwhr tier rates, and push the customer back into tier 1.

            Read this report about battery life. It’s Non linear. You get a big non linear boost in life by reducing depth of discharge. The amount of extra discharge you get from 6kwhr on a 60kwhr battery is trivial. Mind you, we are not talking short range vehicles with small 20kwhr batteries here. We are talking 200 mile range vehicles like the Model 3, S, Bolt, and soon others that will have to follow or become obsolete.


            Given the rapid and unexpected price drops and enthusiastic unanticipated volume demand responses to both the Model 3 and PowerWall, I think there is considerable reason to think that V2G will be sooner than most think. California is speeding up its TOU as mitigation in response the Alisson Canyon leak energy loss. That will add to the speed up of V2G. So will the 375k Model 3 orders. And V2G can be bidirectional.

            “After installing 100 V2G two-way chargers, which allow electricity to be traded through the national grid, LEAF owners will feed on cheap power at night; the next day, when costs are higher, they can either use it or sell it back to make extra money.”


          • eveee

            Grid? The grid doesn’t need to know what your car needs. Your car and you decide. The grid sends signals about what it needs. You engaged with that. It’s just an extension of time of use pricing signals. If the grid signals price as a proxy for surplus or surfeit energy available, a battery based EV system can handle the flow back and forth. The grid doesn’t need to know your car needs to drive 200 miles that day. You do. You have a control program you use to set your cars mode. In normal daily mode, you tell it to use the cheapest energy, So it adjusts your charge to when you get the best rates. No problem, Maybe it’s after midnight and before six am. Or maybe you charge at work and it’s noon to 4 pm. Whatever. Then you want to go on a big Fourth of July trip or on vacation. So you set it to trip mode and set the trip time a week in advance like setting the timer on your automatic sprinkler system or marking your electronic calendar. You could probably make it an electronic calendar on your smart phone. Then it set to trip mode and you charge fully the night before, but ignore cheaper rates if they won’t get you to a full charge at 8AM when you leave on your trip.
            Done. Problem solved. Only problem is the software has not been designed yet. And CPUC is working on smart meters to communicate to customers, Some others are working on smart appliances. But there is no technical reason why it can’t happen.

            I am against collecting user data and centralized grid control. I don’t think it works well. IMO the system I described works better and makes more sense.

          • Ninjaneerd

            You are responding to me but arguing for what I proposed?

            I was responding to Bob_Wallace’s comment:

            On a tight supply night the grid might charge them up to only 70 miles. The 50 minimum + the 20 for the next day. (That might be done with price signals or letting the grid control charging times/levels.)

            To which I responded:

            As far as EVs as storage, I don’t think the grid will be making that decision. How does the grid know your driver doesn’t need 200 miles that next day? Pricing signals and smart contracts seem to solve this efficiently. I’m open for better ideas but I haven’t heard them yet.

            Having accurate price signals is huge! Personally I could do without the contracts part (NEM, etc.) but the utilities don’t seem to be letting that go, and it seems the CPUC agrees.

            I think we are on the same page as far as the controls as well, I want something I control that can negotiate the best charge/discharge scheme (pay/sell) to save me the most money (arbitrage)

          • Bob_Wallace

            There are at least two ways to do smart charging. Let the grid control the time of charging or have the grid issue prices and let the car owner determine time of charging.

            Both ways would work. Since power purchases typically happen a day in advance (do I have that right?) then price sensitive charging should work fairly well. If the grid could determine some of the charging behavior then the grid could do fine tuning rather than having to own batteries for that purpose.

          • Ninjaneerd

            I tend to prefer methods that disseminate information as widely as possible allowing more people to make better informed decisions, promote new and novel strategies, and increase efficiency.

            To me, that would be correct price signals.

          • Bob_Wallace

            What if the grid announces that electricity prices will drop to 5c at 11PM and rise to 7c at 2AM until 6AM. Then every EV starts charging at 11AM and demand sends the utility off to purchase expensive peaking power to fill in the shortage.

            If the utility could do the controlling it could stagger charging times and bill everyone some sort of average price.

          • Ninjaneerd

            Or real time price signals do that more efficiently by themselves.

          • Bob_Wallace

            ​So x hundred thousand cars will start charging at 11PM when the rate drops to 5c.

            That will cause the supply to be over demanded so the utility will start buying 30c peaker power and the rate rises to 8c.

            Then x hundred thousand cars will drop off the grid and reschedule for 2AM and 7c electricity.

            And then the rate will drop back to 5c and x hundred thousand cars will jump back online.

            The grid stutters throughout the night….​

          • Ninjaneerd

            Why exactly does the price fluctuate so widely due to made up mass charge starts and silly prices picked from thin air? Ah, right, because the situation doesn’t reflect real time pricing signals…

          • Bob_Wallace

            Demand drops about 11PM and there’s a good breeze blowing.

            Wind is expected to fall off about 2AM.

            The point is, if you’ve got a really big load that decides when it wants to turn on it can screw up your pricing system. If the grid can control demand then it can meet demand with the lowest cost supply.

          • Frank

            The grid’s computers would figure out how many EV’s start charging at what price pretty quick. Not perfectly, but pretty close. I think it would be a lot like forecasting wind farm output.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I don’t know how you’d set your price schedule to get 33% of the EVs to charge from 11PM to 1AM, 33% to charge from 1 to 3 and the last third to charge from 3 to 5AM.

          • Frank

            The EV’s are not special. The grid doesn’t need to count them. They just learn how much the load increases as they decrease prices. It will cost money to store electricity, so they will be able to sell generation cheaper when it is being produced. It will be the EV’s job to figure out when they want to draw power. Oh, and the grid should very much communicate their price forecasts so EV’s and everything else on the grid can make good choices.

          • Bob_Wallace

            There are 253 million cars and trucks in the US. Imagine a time when they are all electrics. And all are waiting for the best price to charge.

            Now imagine what happens to the grid when the price of electricity drops from 12 to 8 cents at 1AM…..

          • eveee

            Sorry. My bad.

          • eveee

            There is no such thing as free in the real world, just relatively abundant and relatively lower cost. The market is dynamic. Whenever that happens it adjusts and cheap things become more expensive as demand increases. But even with free H2, the costs are high. Conversion, storage, and infrastructure are still expensive right now.

          • Ninjaneerd

            Agreed, there is no real “free” in the world. My proposal is more like a “buy this phone and get a ‘free’ charger”. Utilities, CAISO, CPUC, etc. are all trying to supply California with cheap, reliable, and thankfully now GHG free electricity. An important step to getting there is by facilitating effective markets and promoting infrastructure development. My proposal helps integrate intermittent renewables similar to storage, robust grid level storage is the really the end goal but we need to get moving on that quickly.

            I agree about the cost of storage (you mentioned H2 specifically, but I think we could just generalize it), this cost and how to deal with it is a constant theme in my discussions. Ultimately, I think real pricing signals as discrete as possible will help the case for storage and allow R&D to bring down costs.

          • eveee

            Totally. Market signals are the biggest problem behind storage adoption. How do you make it happen without proper value feedback. There needs to be storage on both sides of the meter.

      • eveee

        That will break the cost bottleneck, but not efficiency or the other bottlenecks like storage or distribution. Hydrogen is really not the best medium for either. It needs to be converted to liquids to enhance that.

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