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Who we are?
The Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) is a unique public private partnership supporting research, technological development and demonstration (RTD) activities in fuel cell and hydrogen energy technologies in Europe. Its aim is to accelerate the market introduction of these technologies, realising their potential as an instrument in achieving a carbon-lean energy system.
Fuel cells, as an efficient conversion technology, and hydrogen, as a clean energy carrier, have a great potential to help fight carbon dioxide emissions, to reduce dependence on hydrocarbons and to contribute to economic growth. The objective of the FCH JU is to bring these benefits to Europeans through a concentrated effort from all sectors.
The three members of the FCH JU are the European Commission, fuel cell and hydrogen industries represented by the NEW Industry Grouping and the research community represented by Research Grouping N.ERGHY.
The FCH JU is the result of long-standing cooperation between representatives of industry, scientific community, public authorities, technology users and civil society in the context of the European Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform. The Platform was launched under the 6th Framework Programme for Research (FP6) as a grouping of stakeholders, led by companies representing the entire supply chain for fuel cell and hydrogen energy technologies.
The Platform concluded that fuel cell and hydrogen technologies can play a significant role in a new, cleaner energy system for Europe. However, if these were to make a significant market penetration in transport and power generation, there would need to be research, development and deployment strategies in which all the stakeholders are committed to common objectives.
The European Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform has indicated the way forward in a number of strategy papers, most importantly the Strategic Research Agenda ( 1.6 MB), the Deployment Strategy ( 3.3 MB) and the Implementation Plan - Status 2006 ( 3.3 MB).
Based on this shared vision, the FCH JU was established by a Council Regulation on 30 May 2008 as a public-private partnership between the European Commission, European industry and research organisations to accelerate the development and deployment of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies.
Why fuel cells and hydrogen?
Fuel cells, as an efficient conversion technology, and hydrogen, as a clean energy carrier, have a great potential to contribute to addressing energy challenges facing Europe. They will allow renewable energy technology to be applied to transport, facilitate distributed power generation, and help Europe cope with the intermittent character of renewables such as wind power.
Thus they will
- Help fight carbon dioxide emissions
- Reduce dependence on mainly imported hydrocarbons
- Contribute to economic growth and create employment
Why a public-private partnership?
- Overcoming barriers to deployment: There are still many technical and non-technical barriers to overcome before fuel cell and hydrogen technology is widely commercially available. A concentrated effort of all players is necessary, because the research needed to develop the technologies is often so complex that no single company or public research institution can perform it alone.
- Pooling together resources: EU Framework Programmes (FPs) have given increasing levels of funding to fuel cell and hydrogen technologies, from 8M € in FP2 to 315M € in FP6. There are also national programmes with substantial funding, not to mention the significant investment by industry and research institutions in these technologies. Better coordination of all these sources of funding will bring gains both in efficiency and economic value. A pre-defined budget of sufficient critical mass - nearly € 1 billion jointly contributed by the members - and a 6-year timetable of the FCH JU will raise confidence among public and private investors and allow industry to make long-term investment plans and manage cash flows. Member States and regions are also expected to align their efforts with the agenda of the JU, adding a leverage effect.
- Market focus:Without a consumer market, no technology can have a major impact. Industry's lead role in defining priorities and timelines of the JU, together with the European Commission and the research community, will ensure that the agenda is focused on market introduction of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies.
- Tackling the market failure:As with many other emerging energy technologies, before fuel cells and hydrogen can become competitive vis-à-vis e.g. oil, a great amount of investment is needed, not only in R&D, but also in transport, storage and refuelling infrastructures. It is clear that the oil-based energy economy is untenable for both environmental reasons and due to the lack of oil reserves in the medium to long term. However, no single company has the resources to make the transition alone, because mass-market volumes are too distant and so are returns on investment. This creates a market failure that prevails until a critical mass of RTD and infrastructure investment creates the conditions for a competitive consumer market to emerge. The FCH JU's model of sustained public-private partnership is expected to help overcome this dilemma and bring the technologies to the point of market breakthrough.