11-05-11 2011 US DoE Annual Merit Review

US DoE Annual Merit Review

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11 May 2011PDF (375 kb)

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This week I am in the Washington DC area, attending the US Department of Energy (DoE) Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Annual Merit Review. With ten sub-programmes under scrutiny over three and a half days, the diversity of applications for hydrogen and fuel cells under discussion is mind boggling. The week also kicked off with the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA) AGM where elections were held to replace the interim board who had been overseeing the organisation since its formation.

FCHEA has been highly active this year drawing attention to, and fighting against, proposed DoE budget cuts to the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Program in fiscal year 2012. Ruth Cox, Executive Director of the FCHEA, made an impassioned call to arms to every company in the fuel cell industry with ties to the USA to join with them in fighting these cuts to funding programmes. Only by standing up and being heard by the decision makers can these cuts be reversed.

In a small number of applications fuel cells are selling commercially without subsidies, but government funding will remain an important contributor to emerging markets and the success of fuel cells in new and as yet untapped markets is likely to hinge upon its continuation. Significant cuts are proposed to the FY 2012 budget, which will run from 1st October 2011 to 30th September 2012, and despite our being halfway through FY 2011, certain programmes may feel the squeeze before then.

Sunita Satyapal from the DoE’s Fuel Cell Technologies Program also spoke during the FCHEA meeting and focused on the potential areas for collaboration with other funding programmes. Where fuel cells are being used to complement renewable energy such as wind or solar, funding in these other areas could be tapped.

Remaining on the subject of funding, a very interesting presentation was made by Oltac Unsal, a representative of the World Bank. He introduced the World Bank Climate Innovation Centers; these provide targeted financing for entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), enabling them to deploy and scale up innovative clean technology solutions. These centres will only be set up in developing countries and the first one is to be established in Kenya. No fuel cell case study was available, but Oltac told me he would be keen to conduct one with any interested parties!

Moving on to the Merit Review, I have so far seen updates on projects working on fuel cells in applications ranging from the familiar, such as fork lift trucks and stationary CHP systems, to less common uses. These include systems for storing excess wind power for use during peak demand periods and a project in Hawaii evaluating the potential for an electrolyser to act as a dynamic load leveller for renewable energy, producing hydrogen for vehicles as a by-product.

There is no shortage of applications for fuel cells in the future, and in some ways manufacturers with only limited development resources are finding it difficult to choose.

I will be heading north from here for the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cells conference in Vancouver next week, where Jonny will be joining me on the Fuel Cell Today booth (number 414). We will be showing for the first time our updated image, which will be launched soon on a new-look website currently undergoing beta testing. Stop by the booth if you are in Vancouver and you can meet Jonny, preview the new website and learn more about our plans for the rest of the year, including the 2011 Industry Review.

Dan Carter     Manager



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