Just over 200 MW of new stationary fuel cells will have been installed around the world by the end of this year – the 213 MW of new generating capacity installed in 2017 is up slightly from the 209 MW installed last year. We are talking about stationary devices used to generate power, and sometimes heat, mainly for buildings, as opposed to small portable fuel cells used to charge products or fuel cells used in vehicles. Interestingly, the growing fuel-cells-for-vehicle sector added a healthy 456 MW of capacity this year – more than double that for stationary devices.
This data comes from the annual Fuel Cell Industry Review, published for the last four years by London and Switzerland-based consultant E4tech.
Clean fuel cells have the potential to form a key component of the world’s decentralized and low carbon generating sector. Yet the global market for stationary devices is dominated by the US and parts of Asia and still depends on government support programmes, says E4tech. Japan’s domestic micro-CHP programme is by the far the largest of these, with around 50,000 units installed during by the year end, albeit with the aid of gradually decreasing subsidies. The 200,000th unit was installed in May and the target is for 1.4 million fuel cell-based units to be installed by 2020. The market for larger, commercial-scale fuel cell units (>3 Kw) in Japan is disappointingly small, though – only 48 such units were installed this year.
Korea is playing a different game, says E4tech, having retreated from supporting domestic-scale units in favour of backing larger fuel cells under its renewable portfolio standard for power companies. Working with the US-based FuelCell Energy, Korea’s POSCO Energy has been successful in the commercial sector, as has Doosan.
In the US, waning support for fuel cells has meant that progress there has been disappointing this year; while Europe, even with its support for domestic-scale units, lags even further behind Asia, says E4tech.
2017 will be seen as a good year overall for fuel cells, says E4tech, but not so great for the stationary sector, and the industry has yet to cross the ‘risk threshold’. Yet the need for carbon-free energy via electricity and hydrogen remains strong. Aside from the transport sector, fuel cells have still to find the required marketplace drivers.