Forecasts, scenarios, visions, backcasts and roadmaps to the hydrogen economy: a review of the hydrogen futures literature

McDowall, W. and Eames, M. 2006. Forecasts, scenarios, visions, backcasts and roadmaps to the hydrogen economy: a review of the hydrogen futures literature. Energy Policy. 34 (11), pp. 1236-1250.

TitleForecasts, scenarios, visions, backcasts and roadmaps to the hydrogen economy: a review of the hydrogen futures literature
AuthorsMcDowall, W. and Eames, M.
Abstract

Scenarios, roadmaps and similar foresight methods are used to cope with uncertainty in areas with long planning horizons, such as energy policy, and research into the future of hydrogen energy has been no exception. Such studies can play an important role in the development of shared visions of the future: creating powerful expectations of the potential of emerging technologies and mobilising resources necessary for their realisation. This paper reviews the hydrogen futures literature, using a six-fold typology to map the state of the art of scenario construction. The paper then explores the expectations embodied in the literature, through the 'answers' it provides to questions about the future of hydrogen. What are the drivers, barriers and challenges facing the development of a hydrogen economy? What are the key technological building blocks required? In what kinds of futures does hydrogen become important? What does a hydrogen economy look like, how and when does it evolve, and what does it achieve? The literature describes a diverse range of possible futures, from decentralised systems based upon the small-scale renewables, through to centralised systems reliant on nuclear energy or carbon-sequestration. There is a broad consensus that the hydrogen economy emerges only slowly, if all under 'Business as Usual' scenarios. Rapid transitions to hydrogen occur only under conditions of strong governmental support combined with, or as a result of, major 'discontinuities' such as shifts in society's environmental values, 'game changing' technological breakthroughs, or rapid increases in the oil price or speed and intensity of climate change.

KeywordsScenario building, Hydrogen economy, Roadmapping
JournalEnergy Policy
Journal citation34 (11), pp. 1236-1250
ISSN0301-4215
YearJul 2006
FileMcDowall_Eames_2006_final.pdf
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2005.12.006
Publication dates
PublishedJul 2006

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