28 February 2008

Home Fuel Cells: Dutch Nuon Makes a Move

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Dutch energy and utility, Nuon, plans to install home boilers incorporating ceramic fuel cells, for its residential customers. The Dutch company expects to begin supplying this combined heat and power approach to residential customers by 2014.
The deal is contingent on Ceramic Fuel, which is dual-listed on London's Alternative Investment Market, meeting commercial requirements set by Nuon. Ceramic Fuel's legal and commercial manager, Andrew Neilsen, said it needed to improve the durability of the fuel cells, from the current two years to four, to meet Nuon's targets, but was confident this would be met and that production would begin by June 2009.

Ceramic Fuel also announced the construction of a €12.4 million factory in Heinsberg, Germany, with an initial production capacity of 10,000 units per year. The cells emit around 60% less carbon dioxide than traditional combustion generators.

Ceramic Fuel has partnerships with several utilities and power appliance manufacturers, but this is its first major sales agreement. Nuon will distribute the cell, which will be integrated into boilers to allow residential customers to generate electricity and heating in their homes, the company said.

Mr Dow said the technology would enable utilities such as Nuon to lease out the boilers — reducing installation and servicing costs for consumers — in return for fixed-price contracts. This will improve customer retention, a major bugbear for European energy providers.___Source__via_NextEnergy_

Expect to see more such creative energy options provided to residential utility customers as time goes on. Combined heat and power (CHP) is more efficient than providing the services separately. With the efficiencies of fuel cells for generating both heat and power fitted to the residential scale, significant savings for the utility are possible. If you consider the load-leveling capability of home CHP as well, utilities have a lot to gain from such an approach.

On a related note, check out this Forbes.com article looking at the state of the art in battery technology.

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