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Summary of the Fuel Cell Expertise Network webinar, 16 October 2014

Can FC CHP handle the competition?    

In a series of FC CHP related webinars, on 16 October 2014 the Fuel Cell Expertise network organized a webinar entitled ‘Can FC CHP handle the competition’. Dr. Ian Walker of Element Energy gave an presentation, gaining insight into the current and future position of FC CHP in the competitive world of domestic energy saving solutions.


Fuel cell (micro) CHPs are being developed in a highly competitive market for energy solutions. Several domestic energy solutions exist, including domestic electricity generators. Solar PV is a domestic electricity generator that has become main stream and has gone through an incredible cost price reduction. How does this affect the market for FC mCHP?

FC mCHP vs. solar PV

FC CHP and solar PV share a number of key investment drivers, including CO2 reduction, lowering energy costs and reducing emissions of local pollutants. Some drivers are different: where solar PV is a technology providing renewable energy, the FC CHP is focused on energy efficiency and utilizing the existing gas infrastructure. While solar PV can be installed virtually any time, FC CHP will mostly be linked to heating system replacement cycles. For a typical house, FC mCHP has potential to deliver more CO2 reduction compared to solar PV systems by significantly decreasing electricity import. However, the CO2 benefit of gas-fired fuel cell CHP is expected to diminish over time, as grid power mixes are decarbonised by the penetration of renewables. In the future, a low carbon fuel is needed for the FC mCHP, for example biogas.


The global market for PV has experience very rapid growth over the last ten years becoming a multi-gigawatt market, while the market for stationary fuel cells is still in its very early stages. But the potential market of FC CHP is also multi-gigawatt in Europe alone across diverse applications in several  sectors, for example:

–          Residential (FC micro-CHP)

–          Commercial (hospitals, leisure centers, universities, laboratories)

–          Industrial (wastewater treatment, hydrogen production)

–          Horticulture (as replacement of gas engine CHP)


Capital cost reductions have been achieved in the PV industry at a historic learning rate of around 20%, meaning each time cumulative volume doubles the cost price drops 20%. Similar learning rates are expected to be required in the FC mCHP industry, if the necessary price targets (i.e. €5000 for a 1 kWe mCHP unit) are to be achieved for mass-market adoption. FC mCHP is not currently competitive with PV on a cost of generation or cost of CO2 saved basis.  But it is expected that annualised costs drop to levels competitive with incumbent systems at around 10,000 units/yr per manufacturer, assuming learning rates similar to those achieved in the PV industry.


The strong PV market seems set to continue, despite the recent drop in EU market. While fuel cell CHP seems unlikely to displace PV, there is still very strong growth potential in other markets if similar learning rates as PV can be achieved. The heating market is likely to drive uptake of fuel cell  CHP, particularly the on-gas residential market. Large heating appliance manufacturers supported by the gas industry are actively developing and commercializing FC mCHP. Besides, FC mCHP does not have to be a competing product to PV, it can be a complementary technology with intermittent renewables such as PV and wind, due to its dispatch characteristics and ability to efficiently modulate output.


Presentation Ian Walker, Element Energy


More information:

The Fuel Cell Expertise Network organizes several webinars and a fuel cell conference each year. If you want to receive an update for these events, please subscribe to our mailing list via http://www.fuelcellnetwork.eu/mailing-list-registration


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