On 28 January, six companies, including Astomos Energy Corp., Osaka Gas Co., Seibu Gas Co., Tokyo Gas Co., Nippon Oil Corp., and Toho Gas Co., made a joint-statement that they were going to sell their home-use fuel cell system, ‘Ene Farm’, from this April.
Ene Farm is a coined word that consists of energy and farm. Because generating both electricity and heat from hydrogen and oxygen is like producing agricultural products from water and earth, they created it as a brand name.
Ene Farm generates power through chemical reactions between hydrogen, from city gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LP gas) and paraffin oil, and oxygen in the atmosphere, and waste heat from the power generation heats waters, which can be used in hot water supply and floor heating.
1. CO2 reduction by 45%
For 1 kWh of energy generation and 1.4 kWh of heat collection, 1,016g of CO2 is created when energy is generated by thermal power generation and existing general water heaters. But, by using Ene Farm, only 555g of CO2 is created.
2. Reduction of primary energy consumption by 33%
For 1 kWh of energy generation and 1.4 kWh of heat collection, 16.2 MJ of primary energy consumption is necessary by thermal power generation and existing general water heaters, while 10.9 MJ is necessary by using Ene Farm.
3. Saving money
Because Ene Farm can cover sixty percent (at maximum) of electricity used by a standard family or a family of four, light and heat cost can be cut by 50,000 yen to 60,000 yen per year.
Shunichi Eguchi, a manager of the planning and promotion group of the Japan Gas Association, said ‘Fuel cell is a trump card for controlling both household CO2 emissions and energy consumption. The maximum merit is that you can save energy without giving up a convenient life.’
One obstacle for households to use Ene Farm is its prices. Prices of Ene Farm will range from 3,200,000 yen to 3,465,000 yen. Although households can have government subsidies of up to 1,400,000 yen per unit, Ene Farm may be still too costly for households.
Another obstacle for Ene Farm must be its strong potential rival, Eco Cute. While four gas firms and two petroleum firms seek to diffuse Ene Farm, electric power companies such as Tokyo Electric Power Co., Kansai Electric Power Co., Hokkaido Electric Power Co., Tohoku Electric Power Co., Chubu Electric Power Co., Chugoku Electric Power Co., Kyushu Electric Power Co., and Okinawa Electric Power Co., seek to diffuse Eco Cute.?In Eco Cute, cute has double meanings, charming and hot water supply as hot water supply in Japanese is Kyuto.
Eco Cute is an electric heat pump water heater using natural refrigerant (CO2). Because it is a heat pump system that collects ambient heat in the air to supply hot water, it does not burn fuel, leading to no release of CO2 where it is used, according to Hiroshi kato (Chairman, the Heat Pump & Thermal Storage Technology Center of Japan).
Although Eco Cute cannot generate electricity and CO2 reduction by Eco Cute is approximately a half of CO2 reduction that can be achieved by Ene Farm. its market prices are 500,000 yen to 700,000 yen. Further, because of expansion of all-electric residences promoted by electric power firms, cumulative Eco Cute sales have already reached 1.5 million.
Thus, it should be very hard for Ene Farm to win in this battle concerning this situation. If Ene Farm wants to win, its prices should go down. As Tadashi Kimura of New Energy Foundation points out, ‘price reduction by technological development and mass production effect is inevitable for Ene Farm to be widely introduced into ‘normal’ family. Though firms on the side of Ene Farm aim to reduce its prices to 500, 000 yen by 2015, price reduction may be necessary as soon as possible before Eco Cute conquers Japan.