The current state and future opportunities for fuel cell CHP in the UK residential sector : an evaluation of end-user perspective
Cheikh Sulaiman, Maha
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The UK housing stock remains among the least efficient with the highest fuel poverty rates in Europe. Besides, direct CO₂ emissions from buildings in the UK amounted to 83 million tonnes of CO₂ in 2017, from which 77% are from homes. Efficient and lowcarbon technologies have the potential to contribute to the alleviation of energy problems. Also, the involvement of people affected by a problem in decision-making can encourage sustainable energy transformations with reduced investment risks. Residential fuel cell combined heat and power (CHP) energy systems have experienced significant uptake in other countries such as Japan. This research evaluates these possibilities in the UK context. The innovation-diffusion model by Rogers was used to analyse individuals’ adoption decision-making behaviour from the perspective of both current end-users and potential end-users. For this purpose, a mixed-methods approach was adopted using an online “public survey” (n=308), dealing with potential end-users, “qualitative semistructured interviews” (10 interviews), dealing with professionals, and “case studies” (4 case studies), dealing with current end-users. The results confirmed the significance of typical variables of the diffusion of innovation model, such as felt needs and problems, the relative advantage of technology, and the novelty-seeking of individuals. It also confirms that activities take place in the confirmation stage allow continued adoption. Issues that seem to impede the adoption of fuel cell CHP in the residential sector in the UK relate to efficiency, performance and safety. While other challenges relate to the high capital cost, availability of an intensive mechanism and the large overall size of the system that must all be addressed in future models of the technology. This study shows that there is scope for motivating individuals to accept fuel cell CHP technology by communicating both individual and public benefits, raising awareness with the use of demonstration projects and make information available on trusted platforms to explain how users benefit from incentive schemes. Besides, in future models and policymaking, several factors need to be considered, including the willingness-to-pay no more than £1,000 over conventional energy systems’ capital cost such as boilers, the availability of an incentive scheme similar to the pre-existed Feed-inTariff and the size of the system of no bigger than the washing machine. Besides, recommendations are made about the way fuel cell CHP is presented to end-users and whom to be targeted as early adopters. The key contribution of this research is to offer a distinct evaluation of the current state of fuel cell CHP in residential applications and forward-looking planning by providing recommendations regarding future models of technology and its advertising behaviour in a way that responds to the potential and current end-users’ needs. Recommendations for future work are to explore the application of fuel cell CHP in housing associations and community projects, to integrate fuel cell CHP into sales channels through power companies, and to study the economics of the fuel cell CHP and make them available on trusted platforms. The results can be of use to policy makers, designers and other interested stakeholders.