The energy industry of 2003 faces no shortage of challenges. In the wake of the California energy crisis of 2000 and 2001, industry and government alike have explored ways to ensure that power markets work well and the industry provides affordable, reliable service. In the light of current geopolitical events, America’s dependence on oil for transportation has once again become a pressing national issue. Major new power plant emissions standards have been introduced in the United States, and global climate change (along with its competitive cousin, green trading markets) has become a top-tier issue everywhere in the world.

What is the role of renewable, alternative energy technologies in meeting these challenges? Are technologies such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal generators quaint proposals of environmentalists or meaningful contributors to the supply base? The answer is that these technologies are moving slowly but steadily from niche applications into the mainstream, especially in power
generation. Within the lifetimes of our children, renewable energy sources will probably account for roughly half of the world’s energy. The global transport system, so dominated by oil use, will also gradually shift, but the driving forces in this arena will be fuel cells and hydrogen as an energy carrier.

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