The global fuel cell industry is growing at a rapid pace, having posted a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 83% during the period from 2009 to 2011. However, the industry is still small, particularly compared to some of its other counterparts in the clean energy arena such as solar and wind. And the fuel cell industry still suffers from a pattern of expansion and contraction. During 2011, for example, system shipments in the portable fuel cell sector contracted by 16% on a year-over-year basis, and in the process the sector lost a number of companies.
Meanwhile, the stationary sector posted the highest growth in 2011, primarily driven by the surge of interest in residential combined heat and power (resCHP) systems in Japan following the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Companies such as FuelCell Energy increased their production. As a result, system shipments in the global stationary sector in 2011 grew by 75% over 2010 and posted a 2009-2011 CAGR of 63%. The dichotomy between the portable and stationary sectors illustrates the fact that the fuel cell industry remains a complex and multifaceted market, with adoption patterns – and the health of the supply chain – varying significantly among different application segments. Despite a number of challenges, however, the industry continues to be driven forward by concerns about the cost of energy, a continued focus around the world on clean energy policy initiatives, and the overall transition to a smart energy paradigm.