The message from European manufacturers and users of the latest smart home energy solution is clear: Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration is market-ready. Already, more than 3,500 households and businesses across Europe are using Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration for their heating, hot water and electricity supply, and numbers are growing fast.
Germany is leading amongst Member States when it comes to supporting Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration technology. The country has shown best practice in its support of the sector, as has been the case with other innovative renewable technologies. Following the completion of the Callux project in 2015, the German Government put in place a dedicated support scheme to encourage early adopter uptake of Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration (KFW433 Programme).
Some support is available in other countries, including Belgium, France and the UK, where Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration is promoted through more general mechanisms (i.e. feed-in premiums, feed-in tariffs, white certificates/green certificates). Yet in many cases support is either insufficient or not stable enough to foster a significant early uptake of fuel cell micro-CHP. In addition, administrative barriers to access incentive schemes can sometimes represent a real barrier.
As the number of installations increases and awareness in the market grows, Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration is well placed to reach mass commercialisation after 2020, reaching more than 10,000 sales per year post 2020. Until 2021, the PACE project aims to install more than 2,500 systems in 10 different European countries (500 units per manufacturer). Support at the national level will help scale up production, develop new markets and increase awareness among customers and building professionals.
In addition to the industry’s commitment and investments in standardising the technology, policy will play a key role in the transition of Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration from early market adoption to mass commercialisation.
Higher market penetration could bring multiple benefits for Europe’s future decentralised energy system, according to a recent report from Imperial College London. With the right policy framework in place, Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration has the potential to deliver 32 million tonnes of CO2 emission reductions by 2030, while reducing infrastructure and operational costs for the energy system by more than €6,000 (gross) for each kilowatt-electric of installed capacity by 2050. These benefits are equivalent to taking 5.3 million cars off the road and reducing Europe’s projected grid reinforcement cost by up to 28% in 2030.
At European level, policy should better reflect the benefits of this home energy solution. Although many attributes of Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration are emphasised in Europe’s climate and energy goals – energy efficiency, enabling more renewable energy, decarbonisation, consumer empowerment, job creation and innovation – existing policies tend to address heat and power separately and fail to consider benefits to the whole energy system. For a summary of the ene.field project’s policy recommendations to support the widespread deployment of Fuel Cell micro-Cogeneration systems, click here.
 Callux, launched in 2008, was back then Germany’s biggest practical test for fuel cell heating systems for domestic use. The project was realised by partners from industry supported by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI).
 Assuming 31 GW of micro-cogeneration installed capacity and taking into account Imperial College London, NERA Economic Consulting, DNVGL estimates for grid reinforcement needs in 2030 of approximately € 210 billion