Pillars of Progress: Power – Homemade heat and power

Pillars of Progress: Power – Homemade heat and power

Fuel cell micro combined heat and power units (μCHP) enable homes to produce much of their own electricity, heat and hot water.

The FCH JU has been instrumental in the development, testing and commercialisation of this cutting-edge clean and low-emission technology. Fuel cell μCHP units enable energy to be generated at the point of consumption by transforming natural gas into hydrogen to power the fuel cells.

They can cut overall CO2 emissions by 30-50% and have a reduced impact on local air quality. However, until recently, the technology faced several limitations: the fuel cells were large, expensive and required regular maintenance.

The FCH JU has supported the development of fuel cell μCHPs suitable for any home connected to the gas network, while demonstrating the benefits of the technology to consumers and industry on a wider scale. Seasonal power efficiencies as high as 60% and combined heat and power efficiencies of up to 95% have been observed in the projects supported by the FC 2 JU. The project Ene.field installed over 1,000 residential fuel cell μCHPs in nine EU countries. Furthermore, the PACE initiative is bringing domestic fuel cells closer to mass commercialisation by installing 2,800 units, enabling manufacturers to scale up production and reduce costs through the introduction of the next generation of products.

Looking ahead, hydrogen grids can be expected to be more widely spread and fuel cells will allow to generate clean energy with zero emissions.

These activities are encouraging national initiatives, which are supporting wider adoption of the technology – for example, Germany is aiming to have hundreds of thousands of units installed by 2025.

In-demand decentralised energy

The decarbonisation of heating in the building sector – an EU energy policy priority – coupled with the roll-out of financial incentives for decentralised energy generation solutions are building confidence in the market and driving additional private investment.

Thanks to the FCH JU’s early support for research, the domestic deployment of fuel cell μCHPs is now a reality. A solid EU-based industry has been established, and new business models are being implemented, offering consumers innovative home energy solutions and driving growing demand for fuel cell μCHPs from manufacturers.

Developing the domestic fuel cell market

The limitations of domestic fuel cell μCHP units are being tackled to build consumer confidence and drive down costs leading to the wider adoption of this clean and low-emission heat and power solution.

Building consumer and industry confidence

The FCH JU public–private partnership model allows SMEs to engage with key partners: utilities, energy services companies, house builders and local governments. This has enabled large-scale trials and demonstrations of domestic fuel cell μCHP technology.

The goal? To address fuel cell μCHP cost, size and maintenance challenges, broadening the technology’s appeal and increasing consumer confidence.

Key results? Thousands of fuel cell μCHPs deployed in homes across Europe, a 30% reduction in manufacturing costs through the scale-up of production and the development of innovative business models to drive market demand.

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