Welcome to the Hydrogen research programme of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE)
As a chemical energy source, hydrogen has the long-term potential to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, as well as to make a major contribution towards energy supply security, the reduction of CO2 emissions and the promotion of industrial innovation. Since hydrogen only occurs on our planet in compound form, however, its extraction in pure form requires the use of energy from other – e.g. renewable – sources. This means that, contrary to fossil fuels, hydrogen is a secondary (albeit renewable) energy source, which can be used as an interim storage medium for compensating the fluctuating availability of other renewable sources of energy such as wind or the sun. Obtaining energy from hydrogen is a process that is almost entirely emission-free, and when carried out in combination with fuel cells it is also highly efficient. As an energy source, hydrogen can be used in a very broad variety of both mobile and stationary applications.
In the energy industry, the use of hydrogen is seen as a comprehensive solution in which hydrogen plays a central role as an energy source. This includes CO2-free production based on renewable energy, safe and efficient storage systems, a distribution network (the former gas network), and conversion by end users into heat and electricity with the lowest possible level of losses. A hydrogen network could handle both the storage and the transport of energy more efficiently than in an electricity industry based on renewable energy but in which it will probably not be possible to definitively solve the problem of maintaining a constant reserve supply. In the electricity sector, as a chemical energy storage medium that can be produced decentrally, hydrogen can fulfil an interim storage function and thus, in combination with renewable energy sources, can contribute towards a sustainable energy supply. In order to fully develop hydrogen technology for widespread use in the energy sector, there is still a significant need for basic research, especially into materials. Here the main challenges are:
In Switzerland, hydrogen has been the subject of energy research for several decades. As a consequence, Switzerland is among the world leaders in terms of expertise in research and development, both at the Federal Institutes of Technology, universities and colleges of technology, as well as in small and medium-sized companies. The research currently being carried out here is to a large extent integrated into international projects. The SFOE's Hydrogen research programme sets out to co-ordinate national and international activities, as well as co-operation between universities, colleges of technology and industry. The available funding is used in addition to the other resources provided by the government and the private sector.