In the years 2012–2017, the ene.field project has demonstrated more than 1,000 fuel cell based micro-CHP units in 10 countries. From a technical point of view, the fuel cell based micro-CHP technology is ready for large market penetration. Over long periods of time, the availability of the units to the end-user has been above 99%. Of the failures encountered, only 1–2% of them were caused by the fuel cell stack itself.
The end-users participating in the ene.field project were very positive about the micro-CHP technology. In general, they were very satisfied with all aspects of their micro-CHP systems, especially the environmental performance of the technology.
If a large-scale market uptake of micro-CHP systems is realized, this can help the EU fulfil energy policy aims and climate commitments. In the investigated use cases and for the assumptions made, the life cycle emissions of GHG of a micro-CHP are lower than those of a gas condensing boiler or a heat pump. The use of micro-CHP units also leads to lower air pollutant emissions compared with the alternative systems.
At today’s capital and maintenance cost levels, micro-CHPs are significantly costlier than traditional heating technologies. As serial production begins, economies of scale will cause the costs to drop significantly. A life cycle cost analysis has shown that the micro-CHP technology can become economically competitive. Subsidies can improve the near-term economics of micro-CHP systems, and may be crucial for the technology to reach the mass market.
Germany has proved to be the most successful market in Europe in terms of deployment numbers. Funding from the national support schemes helps decreasing the investment costs and thereby favors the growth of the market. The German support programme KfW433 will facilitate the commercialization of the fuel cell based micro-CHP technology in the coming years.
A lack of a common framework of European standards is seen as a large hindrance to the market uptake. Countries use international and European standards but supplement with their own versions. Moreover, the forms for approval of installation lack standardization and the process may be complex and lengthy.
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