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How Soon is Now?

Looking for Fuel Cell Technology's Future.
Fortnightly Magazine - November 1 2001

cites legislation pending in Germany under which customers owning combined heat and power plant fuel cells would be subsidized as much as 5 Euro-cents per kilowatt-hour for up to 10 years. Is Europe even riper for market exploitation than the United States? "Without a doubt," says Prouty.

Judging from companies' Asian investments, Japan also is an attractive prospect, but the reasons behind its viability may be slightly different from Europe's. Prouty says that the reason is more economically driven. Everything costs a lot in Japan, we all know, and that includes energy. "The economics are a lot better," in Japan than in Europe and the United States, Prouty points out.

The advent of the fuel cell age may be closer than it was during the days of the tech stock boom, and while consultants and companies alike remain excited about the technologies' prospects, there is no question that risk remains high. In that sense, we are no further along the maturation trajectory than we were 18 months ago. "These are [still] development stage companies," Petrie reminds us. "It's very uncertain when these markets are going to mature. These are development stage companies with a high degree of risk involved in any of them. We think it's an incredibly exciting area. We think it is on the cusp of coming out of the lab and into the commercial market, but timing is very uncertain as to when that's going to happen, and there are a lot of hurdles that fuel cells do have to overcome before they can become truly commercial."

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