Fuel cell industry unity needed to achieve policy goals

The successful effort to restore US Department of Energy funding for hydrogen and fuel cell programs has made the industry stronger and more united, but the fuel cell industry still must fight for its place in the energy agenda of the 21st century, says the President of the US Fuel Cell Council (USFCC).

‘Our industry will emerge from 2009 stronger, more resolute, more open, more active in the marketplace, and more willing to embrace collective action,’ says Michael Hicks, USFCC President as well as Fuel Cell Engineer at fuel cell system developer IdaTech. ‘But the fight is far from over. The real questions concern the role that fuel cells and hydrogen play as an economic force and as a partner in the energy mix for the 21st century.’

Hicks spoke at the opening of the 2009 Fuel Cell Seminar and Exposition in Palm Springs, California.

In May US Energy Secretary Steven Chu proposed to eliminate fuel cell vehicle and hydrogen fuel research funding. The proposal was largely rejected by Congress, which subsequently approved nearly $300 million for fuel cell and hydrogen development. Hicks cites strong Congressional leadership for the fuel cell turnaround, backed up by grass roots activism led by the USFCC and its allies.

Hicks also notes increased government support for fuel cell development in Europe and Asia, and significant private sector sales and fuel cell product announcements in 2009.

Given the needs of society and the needs of the fuel cell industry, says Hicks, ‘it is not enough to simply maintain support for more or less the same old programs. What we need from government is money, certainly. But we also need a sense of shared enterprise, a collective understanding of fuel cells’ commercial and – just as important – societal potential, and, ultimately, a reinvigorated partnership that will hasten the day when we achieve both.’

Hicks continues: ‘These needs are similar everywhere in the world that fuel cells hope to compete, and everywhere energy policy, global warming and the environment are debated.’

‘We are stronger acting together than we are acting separately,’ he concludes. ‘We must find the discipline to look beyond our day-to-day challenges, at the larger challenges we face as an industry. And we must continue to educate and continue to be advocates.’

The US Fuel Cell Council is an industry association dedicated to fostering the commercialization of fuel cell technologies in the United States. Its members include many of the world’s leading fuel cell developers, manufacturers, suppliers, and customers.

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Energy infrastructure  •  Energy storage including Fuel cells  •  Policy, investment and markets