Opportunities in the European market for stationary fuel cells

Paul Boughton
Innovative developments in the European stationary fuel cell market are shaping an optimistic future for the industry. There is a growing interest in many European countries to adopt this 'zero-emission' technology across various applications. Boosted by this need for 'sustainable solutions,' the fuel cell market is transitioning from validation to the pre-commercialisation stage. Frost & Sullivan's research suggests that this process is expected to generate maximum revenues at accelerated growth rates in the coming years. Specifically, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy have been identified as the opportunity hot spots for the emerging stationary fuel cell technologies.
Three types of stationary fuel cells that are expected to be at the forefront of driving growth in the industry are proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), molten carbonate fuel cells (MCFCs) and solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs). PEMFC is the most widely researched fuel cell technology in the world. It is preferred by the automotive industry as well as stationary power generators, as it operates at relatively low temperatures. Its forecasted revenues are estimated to be around $180million by 2018 with a compound annual growth rate of 90 per cent between the years 2010 to 2018. The key identified geographical markets for PEMFCs are Germany, the UK and the Netherlands.
In the total European stationary fuel cells market, MCFCs will be one of the already commercially available fuel cell technologies. In comparison to other fuel cells, MCFC manufacturers focus on more advanced technological improvements that are necessary to equip the fuel cell systems with increased robustness. With current revenues of $6.5million, this technology is projected to have potential revenues of $83million by 2018 with a compound annual growth rate of 67 per cent. Its key geographical markets are Germany and the UK.
The third type of stationary fuel cells, SOFCs, shows the potential to be one of the key power generation technologies in the future owing to their high electrical efficiency. They can run on many fuels, including hydrogen, methane, carbon monoxide and biogas. SOFCs are estimated to have potential revenues of $3.8million by 2018 at a compound annual growth rate of 15 per cent. The technology's key geographical markets are Germany, the UK and Italy.
Regional hot spots for European stationary fuel cells offer influential opportunities for growth. With more than 350 companies and institutes, the German fuel cells industry is the largest in Europe. Germany's well-developed fuel cell supplier network facilitates the development, testing, deployment and servicing of fuel cells. By 2015, Germany will account for more than one-third of the total European demand for fuel cells. The UK is the second largest European market for stationary fuel cells. In 2007 the country announced the Energy Research Partnership (ERP) initiative to provide support to development of research in clean energy technologies, so that they can be introduced in the market in an accelerated way. In France, although nuclear energy is used predominantly, the Government's aim to develop its hydrogen economy acts as a major impetus to the stationary fuel cells market. Finally, Italy's role as a hotspot is attributable to the Italian Government funding university research for fuel cell-related studies and these researches are expected to lead to the formation of new firms in the future.
Despite experiencing accelerating growth, the European stationary fuel cell industry must combat certain market restraints. The overarching challenges are high capital and operating costs, lack of effective technological development to accelerate commercialisation, lack of supportive legislation, and competition from existing technologies. Nonetheless, Frost & Sullivan Energy Senior Research Analyst Vikas Ravindran states: "To maximise success in today's environmentally conscious society, it is absolutely imperative to adopt sustainable solutions." The European stationary fuel cell market is expected to overcome these hurdles, experience vast growth and become a viable alterative energy source of the future.
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