Fuel Cell Power - GOVERNMENT ACTION TO BUILD A LOW CARBON ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE
The UK Government is seeking new ways of dealing with the problems of energy security, economic stability and climate change. New policies are creating markets for efficient low carbon energy technologies. Fuel cells could increasingly be used as the most efficient and least polluting energy technology if Government policies encourage their introduction.Breaking into new energy marketsThe introduction of Feed in Tariffs (FiT) will give a great boost to renewable energy technologies, but support for fuel cells is limited to small systems up to 50 kilowatts electrical energy (kWe). This excludes most of the systems currently available, as the cost of the balance of plant would be prohibitive. Support for fuel cells up to 50kW will be reviewed when 12,000 are in operation. There may be a case for limiting the number of fuel cells supported, because they will become more cost effective in volume production and businesses, communities and individuals will not need incentives to purchase the most efficient, quiet and clean power source! What is illogical is to make it difficult for fuel cells to enter the market in the first place, if subsidies are directed at less effective competitors.Government action to improve energy efficiency and utilise waste heat is welcomed. With their high electricity to heat ratio, fuel cells are ideally suited for providing combined heat and power in future buildings.A report by the Government’s Foresight team of advisers on future energy stated that current UK energy systems are characterized by ‘lock-in’ with certain technologies remaining dominant despite the existence of others that could meet current and future needs more effectively. It is not enough to make incremental changes to the existing energy infrastructure, but purposeful and strong action from the Government is required to overcome lock-in and open up the energy system to experimentation and new ideas.