Fuel cells in the power sector: A key to combat climate change

Posted on 11 June 2003

CO2 emissions from the average European fossil power sector could be reduced by up to 50% if fuel cells were used to supply electricity and heat, according to a report launched today by WWF and Fuel Cell Europe (FCEu).
Brussels, Belgium - CO2 emissions from the average European fossil power sector could be reduced by up to 50 per cent if fuel cells were used to supply electricity and heat. This is one of the findings of a report launched jointly today by WWF and Fuel Cell Europe (FCEu). WWF and FCEu now call on the European Commission to remove regulatory and institutional barriers to the commercial introduction of fuel cells. As a start, the Directive currently under discussion on the promotion of cogeneration should allow fair and equal access to the electric grid for clean and efficient decentralized fuel cell power systems. “The attractiveness of fuel cells lies in their high efficiency and in the potential to use them for decentralized power. Governments as well as power industry need to push this technology in order to make a crucial cut in greenhouse gas emissions," said Oliver Rapf, WWF Climate & Business Policy Officer. WWF commissioned this study in order to critically examine the proposition that fuel cells could be the answer to the world's pressing need for clean, efficient power. The report focuses on the environmental benefits of fuel cells for stationary use, and it is the first comprehensive, independent analysis of the climate benefits of this technology. Key findings include: •CO2 emissions from European fossil electricity generation could be halved by fuel cells, and even more if the coal or lignite power stations would be replaced •Fuel cells also offer extremely low or even zero emissions of health damaging pollutants •They are a key component for a sustainable energy future, allowing the gradual switch from natural gas to renewably produced hydrogen •Micro fuel cell systems that would be sited in buildings to supply heat and as well as power for households and businesses were identified as a mid-term mass market business opportunity for European industry. Related to the development of fuel cells is the current discussion in the commission about hydrogen. At a conference on 16–17 June, the Commission's so-called High Level Group on Hydrogen will discuss a vision paper on hydrogen and fuel cells in Europe. WWF urges governments to prioitize energy efficiency and renewable energy when developing a hydrogen and fuel cell strategy. Marcus Nurdin, Executive Director of FCEu, stated that: “We urgently need a legal EU framework that encourages the early and widespread installation of fuel cells. Fuel cells must be integrated into an overall strategy for the development of energy systems which aims at efficiency and the expansion of renewable energy sources. Furthermore, industry requires a clear strategy with explicit goals and a consistent policy framework from government. Without this, the massive investments required to commercialise fuel cell technology will not be made. This could mean that Europe would not participate fully in a dynamic new industry with consequent loss of jobs and competitiveness, as well as delayed environmental benefits.” For further information: Angelina Hermanns Press Officer, WWF European Policy Office Tel: +32 2 740 09 25 E-mail: AHermanns@wwfepo.org Patrick Trezona Secretary-General, Fuel Cell Europe Tel: +44 1707 372 353 E-mail: p.trezona@fuelcelleurope.org Notes to editors: •The report is called: Fuel cells for distributed power: benefits, barriers, and perspectives. By Dr. Martin Pehnt (Institut für Energie- und Umweltforschung Heidelberg, IFEU) and Dr. Stephan Ramesohl (Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie), June 2003, commissioned by WWF in co-operation with Fuel Cell Europe. •FCEu is an initiative of a number of leading fuel cell companies in Europe and is established as an activity of the World Fuel Cell Council e.V, Kroegerstrasse 5, 60313 Frankfurt am Main, tel. + 49 69 283 851, e-mail: wfuelcell@aol.com •A fuel cell combines hydrogen with oxygen (from air) in a chemical reaction, producing water, electricity and heat. Fuel cells do not “burn” the fuel, the conversion takes place electrochemically without combustion. Fuelled with pure hydrogen, they produce zero emissions of pollutant and greenhouse gases. However, where hydrocarbon fuels such as natural gas are used a “fuel reformer” (or "fuel processor") is required to extract the hydrogen.
Coal is the most carbon-intensive of all fossil fuels, accounting for more than 50% of the power sector's CO2 emissions.
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