The beginning of this year saw wide-ranging changes to the Fuel Cell Initiative, or IBZ for short. What used to be a group of manufacturers and energy suppliers collaborating to promote fuel cell heaters was integrated with the BDH, Germany’s national heating industry association, and Zukunft Erdgas, an advocacy group representing the interests of over 100 gas utilities and pipeline operators. The heads of both organizations, Andreas Lücke and Timm Kehler, are now also the new spokesmen for the initiative.
Reportedly, the changes had been made to keep pace with market developments and new challenges. While the BDH will concentrate its efforts on the political arena, Zukunft Erdgas will focus on the market itself. Partners are the German Technical and Scientific Association for Gas and Water and the National Organization Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology. Both began coordinating activities with the IBZ last March.
The initiative was founded by EWE, MVV Energie, Ruhrgas and VNG in 2001, with the intent to develop and test smaller fuel cells powered by natural gas. As many as 12 organizations – energy suppliers, device manufacturers and the German Energy Agency – had been part of the collaboration at some point. Six of those have remained, all of them heating equipment manufacturers. They are Bosch, SenerTec, SOLIDpower, Vaillant, Viessmann and Elcore, which was recently acquired by Freudenberg (see p. 5). In March 2017, the companies decided to work together with influential associations for the gas and appliance manufacturing industries to create an effective communications strategy that would support the market launch of new technologies. Kehler said that the decision had marked the end of the first stage and that an increase in the uptake of fuel cell heaters was the collaboration’s next objective.
Fuel cells, however, were nowhere to be seen when the BDH, Zukunft Erdgas and the plumbing trade started a marketing campaign this March. Zukunft Erdgas would only say that one aim of the Replace-It-Now Weeks certainly was to address the vast number of building retrofits needed today and the condensing technology that came with such a task.
When H2-international asked Alexander Dauensteiner why Vaillant continued to be involved in the initiative, although it was said to have turned its back on fuel cell technology in early 2017, he replied:
“Vaillant would like to emphasize that it never ‘exited the sector.’ What we did do at ISH 2017 was to announce that the Vaillant Group will reduce its fuel cell R&D activities and halt the market launch of its residential fuel cells for single-family homes. This decision was …