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Promising Hydrogen energy requires government support: Experts

11/23/2023 10:14 PM
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Representatives of five green energy-related industry associations show an MOU they signed on cooperation, with Acer founder Stan Shih (center right) serving as the witness, in Taipei Wednesday. CNA photo Nov. 22, 2023
Representatives of five green energy-related industry associations show an MOU they signed on cooperation, with Acer founder Stan Shih (center right) serving as the witness, in Taipei Wednesday. CNA photo Nov. 22, 2023

Taipei, Nov. 23 (CNA) In light of Taiwan's delayed progress in the field of hydrogen fuel cells, experts attending a new energy forum on Wednesday highlighted the potential and possible entry points for Taiwanese companies, but at the same time emphasized the importance of government support.

A fuel cell is a device that converts the chemical energy of hydrogen or other fuels into electricity by electrochemical reaction. As only electricity, water and heat are produced when using hydrogen as fuel, hydrogen fuel cells are widely considered a favorable energy application for a greener future, with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles playing a leading role in its application.

Addressing the forum on Wednesday, Hung Yu-chan (洪于展), a researcher at the Industrial, Science, and Technology International Strategy Center (ISTI), noted that Japan's Toyota and South Korea's Hyundai started launching R&D initiatives of hydrogen fuel cells in 1992 and 1998 respectively. Following in the footsteps of those companies, the governments of the two countries also incorporated hydrogen into their national energy plans.

The Japanese government announced in 2017 a plan to create a "hydrogen society," and less than two years later a "technological roadmap for the hydrogen economy" was drawn up by the South Korean government, according to Hung.

Without initiatives launched by established automobile corporations, Taiwan's comprehensive hydrogen development plan was only recently unveiled with the government's "Taiwan's 2050 Net-Zero Transition" roadmap, published in 2022, where hydrogen is listed as one of the 12 key strategies to complete the transition.

Despite the relatively late start by the government, in terms of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, Hung pinpointed the hydrogen fuel cell system as a prospective niche for Taiwanese companies within the international supply chain.

Noting that government funding has encouraged research into fuel cell stacks, Hung said Taiwanese companies might also have a good chance of developing a niche in the supply chain of the "balance-of-plant" (BOP) subsystem of fuel cell systems -- which contain all the components of a fuel cell system except the stack -- as many Taiwanese companies already specialize and excel in these components.

Hung also stressed the importance of government support, particularly in the form of subsidies in the future. Taking the example of fuel for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, he noted that in Beijing, with the government subsidizing the use of hydrogen fuel, vehicles using hydrogen can travel two times further per NT$1,000 (US$31.75) than gasoline vehicles, and in Seoul it is around 1.4 times further.

As of the end of 2022, a total of 781 hydrogen fueling stations have been established in 37 countries, a majority in Asia, with Japan (164), topping the list, followed by China (138), and South Korea (134) according to the researcher, adding that in 2022 South Korea saw over-100 percent growth in the sector from 63 stations in 2021.

Chung Hsin Electric & Machinery Manufacturing Co. Chief Strategy Officer Chen Chien-hao (陳建豪), also speaking at the forum, said the corporation's subsidiary Stellar Power System Co was established to focus on hydrogen energy.

Chung Hsin believes hydrogen has greater potential than batteries as a (renewable) energy carrier, according to Chen, as it can be stored to produce a greater amount of electricity and is easier to transport.

"Hydrogen has a decentralizing effect as it allows even resource-poor and small countries to become energy exporting countries," he said.

Chen said Stellar Power has been developing hydrogen fuel cell two-wheelers to be tested in the Taiwanese market, "as Taiwanese people have most demand for two wheelers in terms of cost and quality."

Stellar Power has also been working with CPC Corporation, Taiwan, to install hydrogen-can swapping stations, according to the CSO.

"Stellar Power is also looking beyond Taiwan," he said. The company's hydrogen fuel cell tuk-tuk (auto-rickshaw) attracted a lot of attention at an expo in India, Chen said, pointing out that there are more than 10 million tuk-tuks running on the street in Southeast Asia.

The forum was hosted by several green energy-related industry associations and Asia Silicon Valley-Major League IoT, an alliance set up under the initiative of the National Development Council's Asia Silicon Valley Development Plan and chaired by Acer founder Stan Shih (施振榮), who also attended the forum to witness the signing of an MOU between the associations on future cooperation.

(By Alison Hsiao)

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