System-level energy efficiency is the greatest barrier to development of the hydrogen economy

Shannon Page*, Susan Krumdieck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (SciVal)


Current energy research investment policy in New Zealand is based on assumed benefits of transitioning to hydrogen as a transport fuel and as storage for electricity from renewable resources. The hydrogen economy concept, as set out in recent commissioned research investment policy advice documents, includes a range of hydrogen energy supply and consumption chains for transport and residential energy services. The benefits of research and development investments in these advice documents were not fully analyzed by cost or improvements in energy efficiency or green house gas emissions reduction. This paper sets out a straightforward method to quantify the system-level efficiency of these energy chains. The method was applied to transportation and stationary heat and power, with hydrogen generated from wind energy, natural gas and coal. The system-level efficiencies for the hydrogen chains were compared to direct use of conventionally generated electricity, and with internal combustion engines operating on gas- or coal-derived fuel. The hydrogen energy chains were shown to provide little or no system-level efficiency improvement over conventional technology. The current research investment policy is aimed at enabling a hydrogen economy without considering the dramatic loss of efficiency that would result from using this energy carrier.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3325-3335
Number of pages11
JournalEnergy Policy
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009


  • Energy analysis
  • Energy efficiency
  • Hydrogen economy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy(all)
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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