Explaining the Lack of Dynamics in the Diffusion of Small Stationary Fuel Cells

Explaining the Lack of Dynamics in the Diffusion of Small Stationary Fuel Cells

Bert Droste-Franke (Europäische Akademie Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler GmbH, Germany), Jörg Krüger (Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany), Stephan Lingner (Europäische Akademie Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler GmbH, Germany) and Thomas H.W. Ziesemer (Maastricht University, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1978-4.ch013


Fuel cell technology is using the reaction of hydrogen with oxygen to water in order to produce electricity and heat. It promises a high electrical efficiency even in small devices, which can be installed close to the consumer. This approach seems to be an impressive idea to contribute to a viable future energy supply under the restrictions of climate change policy. Major reasons currently hampering the diffusion of such technology for home energy supply in Germany are analyzed in this chapter. The barriers revealed include high production costs as well as economic and legal obstacles for installing the devices so that they can be operated in competition to central power plants and beside others in tenancies.
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2. Methodology

The analysis starts with the description of the interdisciplinary methodology of technology assessment applied to the case of fuel cell-based energy innovations. This approach is driven by the question why fuel cell technology is entering contemporary systems of stationary electricity and heat production so slowly—despite its potential for energy efficiency—which is clearly an interdisciplinary one. As explained in this chapter, related obstacles turn out to be economic, technological, and legal problems. These barriers have to be overcome in order to improve the environmental quality of future energy supply by introducing fuel cell-based systems, among other environment friendly options. Finally, appropriate and reliable solutions are to be worked out with respect to the relevant levels of political decision making and acting, thus enabling their implementation.

Following this outline, the core disciplines are: engineering, economics and jurisprudence. They should be complemented by sound competences covering necessary sustainability issues and related policy aspects as well as profound experience in Technology Assessment (TA). The latter is indispensable because interdisciplinary work requires specific methods and structures which will improve appropriate integration of the above-mentioned disciplines (Decker & Grunwald, 2001). The successful integration promises additional cognitive and practical benefits for the excellence and meaningfulness of the interdisciplinary effort instead of merely adding disciplinary views as a whole with low coherence and possibly inconsistent results.

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