A project which field-trialled fuel cell micro-cogeneration systems across 10 European countries presented its findings this week.

The ene.field project, a joint initiative of COGEN Europe, the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) and 27 partners including 11 European manufacturers, installed more than 1000 residential and commercial fuel cell systems over five years, registering over 5.5 million hours of operation.

The results show that fuel cell micro-CHP “can deliver important system wide efficiency and decarbonization benefits across Europe between 2020 and 2050, as it is expected to mainly displace more inefficient and carbon intensive generation up to 2050,” the project partners said.

This can be achieved at a lower cost for the energy system and the consumer compared to a scenario with no uptake of the technology, they added.

According to the findings, fuel cell micro-CHP could potentially deliver 32 million tonnes of CO2 emission reductions in 2030, while reducing infrastructure and operational cost for the energy system by more than €6000 ($7100) for each kWe of installed capacity until 2050.

The project “represents a step change in the volume of fuel cell deployment for this sector in each country,” the partners said. Through learning the practical implications of installing, operating and supporting a fleet of fuel cells with real-world customers, the project “has demonstrated the environmental and economic imperative of fuel cell micro-cogeneration, and laid the foundations for market exploitation”.

To this end, the PACE project, which is planned to build on ene.field’s success, aims to install over 2500 of the systems.

Hans Korteweg, managing director of project co-ordinator COGEN Europe, said PACE would “enable manufacturers establish fuel cell micro-cogeneration as a standard technology by installing more than 2500 units across Europe” and that “major European manufacturers, supported by the FCH JU at the EU level and key European national governments, are now committed to bringing the technology closer to mass market by increasing scale and achieving further product cost reductions.”

However, the project partners cautioned that the right policy framework must be in place to realize the benefits of the technology.

In particular, key decarbonization and energy efficiency policy steps such as building codes and energy labelling “should fully reflect the benefits of fuel cell micro-CHP for consumers and the energy system as a whole.

“This will be an important driver for the micro-CHP technology to reach the mass market,” the partners said.