15 December 2011:  Letter  – Ceramic Fuel Cells – a Melbourne-based manufacturer of highly-efficient generators for homes and buildings – has argued in a submission to the Australian Energy Market Commission that electricity produced by its low-emission gas-to-electricity generators and fed into the grid should qualify for a fair feed-in tariff.

One of Ceramic Fuel Cells’ BlueGen gas-to-electricity units produces twice as much electricity as the average Australian home needs, so excess electricity can be fed into the electricity grid. Currently this electricity does not qualify for a feed-in tariff.

BlueGens are an example of distributed electricity generation (creating electricity at the point of use), which negates governments’ reliance on centralised electricity generation and distribution infrastructure.

Australian governments have signalled they will need to invest at least $100 billion in electricity infrastructure over the next decade – such as coal-fired power plants and electricity poles and wires – in order to meet growing demand for electricity and replace ageing hardware.

The Ministerial Council on Energy (MCE) recently directed the Australian Energy Market Commission to undertake a review into demand-side participation in the National Electricity Market. (The review is titled: “Power of Choice – giving consumers options in the way they use electricity”).

Central to Ceramic Fuel Cells’ submission is that one BlueGen unit installed in a home can reduce the home’s carbon footprint by 14 tonnes a year – or four times the carbon saving of a solar PV system, which must rely on coal-powered electricity to meet daily shortfalls.

The company argues that if the government wants to reduce carbon emissions, it should pay a feed-in tariff for excess electricity produced by low-emission technologies.

In its submission, Ceramic Fuel Cells argues that homeowners and businesses will buy BlueGen units if they can generate a commercial payback, provided the energy retailers pay them a reasonable rate for the low-emission electricity they export to the grid. This should be equal to the standard retail rate, currently about 20 cents per kilowatt hour.

Other countries – such as Germany, UK and Netherlands – pay feed-in tariffs for low-emission electricity fed into the grid.

The Australian Academy of Science has called for a national feed-in tariff for small-scale fuel cell products such as BlueGen.

Brendan Dow, MD,