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Domestic Micro-CHP

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Shares in Ceres Power Holdings (CWR.L) performed strongly again this morning, as the AIM-listed fuel cell company demonstrates its domestic wall-mountable integrated combined heat and power (CHP) boiler.

In a press release, Ceres said:

” [This] represents an important milestone in the Company’s residential CHP programme with British Gas and highlights the commercial potential of the product. The compact and wall-mountable design will enable access to both the boiler replacement and new build residential mass markets in the UK and overseas.
“As part of an ongoing testing programme, the integrated wall-mountable CHP Unit has already demonstrated the capability of generating electricity and all of the central heating and hot water requirements of a typical home, avoiding the need for a separate boiler. The compact CHP Unit uses the same natural gas, water and electricity connections as a boiler, and is thus easy to install.”

In March 2006 Ceres signed a £2.7m deal with British Gas, part-funded by the Department of Trade and Industry, to supply domestic CHP units. Peter Bance, Ceres CEO , said at the time: “Most UK households will have their own power station [one day]. It will be massively cheaper than buying electricity from the grid.”

According to Mr Bance, the Ceres CHP unit will not cost much more than a conventional boiler. It runs on regular natural gas, which is converted into energy in the fuel cell. Mr Bance said that households may consume around the same amount of gas but all their electricity would be generated for free, as a by-product.

“It’s a no-brainer,” said Mr Bance. “For a very modest price premium to a boiler, households will save £400 or £500 a year.”

When I first heard about this, it seemed quite a seductive idea. However, I’m beginning to wonder how it will work in practice, especially in tandem with other domestic power systems such as photovoltaics or solar water heating. And after all, it still uses fossil fuel, so it’s perhaps not quite the magic bullet that it’s presented as.

A copy of the presentation will be available shortly at


Written by Pete Smith

September 11, 2007 at 10:17 am

9 Responses

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  1. The idea of generating free electricity should attract custom. The concept of producing power at source, within ones own home is a radical concept for most people. Bringing about this reality, even by using a fossil fuel, could be the magic bullet. Once people get used to the idea of at source micro power generation, all sorts of possibilities can open up within the consumer’s mind.


    September 11, 2007 at 4:36 pm

  2. OK, setting aside the fossil fuel issue for a moment, I’m having trouble visualising how the electricity thing will work. Do we have to run the CHP all the time, or is it a case of selling a surplus to the grid when we’re using the boiler, and buying it from the grid when we’re not? Can it coexist with an existing metered surplus scheme such as from photovoltaics or a wind turbine?
    I’m just wondering if this will really be “free” electricity at all. It’s not a technical issue, I’m sure the device itself is great, but a lot depends on how BG market it and what restrictions and tariifs they impose. Much more research required on the nuts and bolts of how this will work.

    Pete Smith

    September 11, 2007 at 4:51 pm

  3. Is there someone at BG that you could ask?


    September 11, 2007 at 5:58 pm

  4. I’m sure there are many I could ask, how many could answer the question is another matter. I hesitate to call BG because I always end up on the receiving end of a sales pitch. There’s nothing on the BG web site, so I assume they’re not ready to roll them out yet.

    Pete Smith

    September 11, 2007 at 6:50 pm

  5. Yes, maybe Ceres would like to talk to you … or maybe a good engineers forum on the web.


    September 12, 2007 at 6:31 am

  6. I’ve fired off a query to Centrica’s media department, in my guise of a crusading journalist for a free-wheeling environmental web site 🙂
    Can’t see much mileage in talking to the techies at this stage, as this is a marketing and implementation issue rather than technical.

    Pete Smith

    September 13, 2007 at 12:10 pm

  7. I received a reply from a nice lady called Anne Morton, Communications Manager at British Gas.

    “Pete, thanks for your interest in the fuel cell boiler. I’ve answered your questions below but I’m afraid at this early stage of the product’s development I don’t have any detail n how we intend to market it to share with you. The fuel cell boiler is an example of the types and products and services we will be offering through our recently launched “green” business, British Gas New Energy”

    Q1 When will this device be available?
    A1 Plans are underway to move from the demonstrator prototype to field trials which will culminate in a commercially available product, but it will be a few years off before we have anything on sale to customers.

    Q2 I assume it is intended to work in conjunction with the existing electricity supply, rather than replace it.
    A2 Yes, it is designed to supplement the existing national grid supply.

    Q3 If so, will it be designed to sell surplus electricity back to the grid?
    A3 Yes

    Q4 Will it work alongside existing sell-back installations?
    A4 Yes – we already offer an export tariff

    Q5 Will there be restrictions as to tariffs or terms and conditions? For example, will it only be possible to install this device if one is a BG electricity customer?
    A5 Not at all, though there will need to be some regulatory changes within the metering industry to smooth the customer experience of having an import/ export meter installed along with the boiler.

    Pete Smith

    September 27, 2007 at 12:48 pm

  8. Well done Pete.

    I can’t find a dedicated ‘British Gas New Energy’ website. Closest I get to is this;


    September 27, 2007 at 1:19 pm

  9. […] Shares in Ceres Power Holdings (CWR.L) rose sharply this morning on the news that Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, has taken a 10% stake in the AIM-listed fuel cell company. The shares are being bought at £3.00 per share, substantially lower than the £3.25 they reached last September when Ceres announced successful trials of their domestic combined heat and power (CHP) boiler. (“Domestic Micro-CHP”) […]

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