Fuel cells for a sustainable future II: Stakeholder attitudes to the barriers and opportunities for stationary fuel cell technologies in the UK

TitleFuel cells for a sustainable future II: Stakeholder attitudes to the barriers and opportunities for stationary fuel cell technologies in the UK
Publication TypeTyndall Working Paper
SeriesTyndall Centre Working Papers
Tyndall Consortium Institution


Secondary TitleTyndall Centre Working Paper 64
Keywordsbarriers, fuel cells, opportunities, stakeholder attitudes, stationary fuel cell technologies, sustainable future, UK
AuthorsPeters, M., and J. Powell
Year of Publication2004

Based on stakeholder interview findings this paper explores the opportunities and barriers to the development of stationary fuel cell technology in the UK. Stationary fuel cells offer a significant way forward towards sustainable energy but there is still a long way to go, at a technical and non-technical level, before they become an established, mainstream technology. Technically there is a need to extend the knowledge base for fuel cells, to improve their efficiencies, reliability, lifetime and material performances. Several issues also surround the sustainable production and storage of hydrogen and the development of a hydrogen infrastructure. Non-technical issues include cost, education and training, regulatory barriers, government commitment and issues surrounding the future of energy distribution. Increased Government support both in terms of legislative reform and financial support is necessary to enable fuel cells to reach commercialisation and to establish a sustainable position in the market. If stationary fuel cells are to be taken seriously a significant change of attitude is required within the government and the energy industry, combined with proactive action. Subsidies for demonstration models could be one way forward. More working demonstrations would not only display the government's commitment to fuel cells but would also provide a test bed for independent assessment of their environmental and social impacts. Financial support for the integration of fuel cell CHP into new housing developments would provide an ideal opportunity, particularly if they are combined with other integrated forms of renewable energy. The project would need to be independently monitored and evaluated and the results publicised widely. Although fuel cells can provide environmental benefits associated with reduced local pollution and quiet operation there remains a question mark over the carbon implications. It is important to recognise that the environmental implications of this technology vary significantly depending on the source of fuel used to power them (e.g. natural gas) and their application. Fuel cells cannot be considered in isolation, a lifecycle approach is needed. Vehicular fuel cell applications have attracted high profile attention in recent times but it is felt that problems surrounding the establishment of a hydrogen infrastructure will slow down their large scale market emergence. In terms of niche market penetration mobile applications (e.g. phones) followed by smaller CHP units are thought to be more promising in the medium term.

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