A recent meeting between representatives of the European Union (E.U.) and the U.S. explored how fuel cells could provide the planet with a sustainable energy supply to replace rapidly diminishing fossil fuels. Both parties confirmed their commitment to provide the planet with sustainable energy supply by signing a co-operation agreement on fuel cell research technology.Brussels, Belgium – June 17, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] The agreement brokered by European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin and the US Secretary of Energy, Spencer Abraham, aims to strengthen research links, by bringing together E.U. and U.S. researchers from both the public and private sectors. Key challenges for fuel cells to become commercially competitive are cost reductions, improved performance and durability. Research and technological development will explore how these barriers can be overcome. The E.U. Commission and the US Government will discuss the joint E.U.-U.S. research projects. “By pooling E.U. and U.S. research efforts and resources, we improve our chances of finding a long-term solution to the world’s energy and transport problems,” Busquin said. Today represents a landmark in energy research history: with this agreement and the publication of the summary report of the High Level Group on Hydrogen and Fuel Cells, we have made real progress towards building a sustainable future for Europe, the US and their peoples. “This agreement lays out the framework for our two entities to collaborate on a matter important to both the U.S. and the European Union hydrogen research,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. “The Fuel Cell Annex will help the U.S. Department of Energy and the European Commission leverage our approaches to hydrogen research. ” The signing of the agreement will drive forward the development of joint initiatives in seven fuel cell-related areas: -Transportation vehicles demonstrations, including fuelling infrastructure; -Fuel cells as Auxiliary Power Units; -Codes and standards, including for fuel infrastructure, vehicles and Auxiliary Power Units; -Fuel choice studies and socio-economic assessment of critical materials availability for low temperature fuel cells; -Solid Oxide Fuel Cells and high temperature fuel cell turbine hybrid systems; -Support Studies, including socio-economic assessment of critical rare earth materials for high temperature fuel cells; and -Direct Methanol and Polymer Electrolyte Membrane fuel cells for transportation and stationary applications. Europe’s total public expenditure in this field is estimated at some €600 million (US$ 710.2 million) for the 2002-2006 period (E.U. and Member States). Coordinating these efforts and stimulating private investment is crucial to building a competitive fuel cell industry in Europe. The U.S. administration has requested a budget of US$1.7 billion over the next five years to be spent on the Freedom Car and Freedom Fuel Programs, which include a heavy emphasis on hydrogen and fuel cells. The co-operation between the E.U. and the U.S., officially stated in the Fuel Cells Amendment, represents a significant step forward in the strengthening of their scientific and technical relations and in the building-up of a global critical mass for research in this sector.