Non-economic barriers to large-scale market uptake of fuel cell based micro-CHP technology

Carsten Brorson Prag, Eva Ravn Nielsen

Research output: Book/ReportReport

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The large-scale market introduction of fuel cell (FC) based micro combined heat and power (micro-CHP) systems in residential application faces a broad range of challenges, including non-economic barriers, which require special attention. This report identifies the non-economic barriers in terms of product perception by consumers or installers, supply chain limitations, policy and political environment and the performance of the system in operation, and proposes actions to address them to facilitate the market uptake of FC micro-CHPs.

Complementing the right market conditions, awareness among end-users and supply chain, as well industry’s further efforts to speed up the industrialisation of FC micro-CHP production, a coherent, steady and predictable policy framework, is key to recognise and incentivise investments by the European heating sector in advanced products and new business models contributing to a more efficient, reliable and cleaner energy system1.
The comprehensive review of the policy and political context2, conducted as part of the ene.field project, concluded that the multiple consumer and energy system benefits of FC micro-CHP are not adequately recognised and rewarded by most policy at the EU and national levels.
In addition to high level recognition of fuel cell micro-CHP at both EU and national levels, removing barriers and fully accounting for the consumer and system level benefits in building codes, energy labelling and other secondary policy instruments is key to ensure that the right drivers are in place, once the mass market commercialisation stage has been reached. Promoting innovative business models to accompany the roll out of FC micro-CHP will also help consumers derive further benefits from the technology.
A lack of a common framework of European standards is seen as a great hindrance to market uptake. Manufacturers points to a need for updating, improvements or revisions for a large amount of the current standards3. Issues include lack of consistency between different standards dealing with similar topics and standards that refer to too general co-generation systems fitting poorly with the reality of FC micro-CHP technology. The sheer amount of standards that are in some way relevant to FC micro-CHP installation makes it hard for the manufacturers to keep an overview.
From a supply chain point of view the main challenges for the FC micro-CHP technology is significant increase of production volume, simplification of maintenance and part replacement procedures and reduction of system complexity and the cost of components. In the same thread, cost reduction is necessary for market introduction of the technology4. Here the main can be grouped into three main areas of work: increase in volume, system simplification and development of collaborative strategies between key players.
From the more technical point of view of field installation, the largest problem identified is the sheer time some installations take5. Here component standardisation may be a way of decreasing the required installation time. Additionally, while training of installers has progressed tremendously in active markets such a Germany lack of such training may be a barrier for market entry in smaller dormant markets.

Lastly, while customers participating in the ene.field project were found to be overwhelmingly positivity to the FC micro-CHP technology two main areas where improvements would be desirable was identified: running costs and ease of use of the technology6. This latter point was most notable when asked about satisfaction with heating and hot water and therefore it should be noted that issues with the backup boiler or heating circuit might just as well have caused this.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages49
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

A report within the framework of the ene.field project (


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