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Fuel Cells and Jobs
Posted on July 21, 2010 by Green Jobs
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Dr. Jonathan Butler is Senior Market Analyst, Asia specializing in market developments in the Asia Pacific region, with an emphasis on portable applications of fuel cells. His current focus includes supply chain developments, legislation, policy and intellectual property (IP) aspects of fuel cell technology, particularly patent and patent opposition analysis, and their commercial implications. He is also interested in the development of fuel cells in the Middle East.


As well as being clean and efficient sources of energy, fuel cells also represent a substantial opportunity for job and wealth creation, particularly in manufacturing of fuel cells and in installing, maintaining and servicing the units. In an increasingly uncertain economic climate, fuel cells may offer both economic stimulus and job creation.

In Europe and North America, there has been a great deal of political focus in recent years on job creation to stimulate economic growth and also to compensate for those being lost in declining industries, especially in regions severely hit by the recent recession. This echoes the ‘New Deal’ policies in the USA in the 1930s when huge public works programs were undertaken to create employment in the Depression. The 21st century versions of these policies are firmly aimed at creating jobs in potentially high-growth areas of the economy. Legislation such as the US Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act 2008 specifically emphasises the creation of ‘green collar’ jobs – manufacturing jobs focused on new, clean technologies. Similarly, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) 2009 has also provided a conduit for job creation, with billions of dollars being invested in the energy sector.

Fuel Cell Today has recently conducted analysis of job creation in the fuel cell industry over the next decade. According to our calculations, around 700,000 jobs could be created in fuel cell manufacturing over the next ten years, with over a million jobs in total when manufacturing and servicing is also included. Most of the jobs are expected to be created in manufacturing fuel cells for stationary applications (for example combined heat and power for buildings) with a heavy concentration of installation and maintenance jobs in regions where fuel cells are adopted, such as the United States. Manufacturing of fuel cells will largely take place in Asia, Europe and North America, although certain other regions with attractive government incentives, including South Africa and the Middle East, may also become important regions for fuel cell manufacturing.

When we compare fuel cell job creation with job creation in related clean energy sectors such as wind and solar, we see that fuel cells have the potential to create around 150,000 jobs per year by 2020, a similar number to the annual rate of job creation in the solar and wind energy sectors today. In other words, the fuel cell industry could be the next ‘green growth’ industry, facilitating green collar jobs, economic growth and contributing to energy security.

Our forecasts are based on a business as usual scenario, with assumptions on productivity improvements and expansion of fuel cell manufacturing built into our model. However, our model assumes that the appropriate levels of skills and training will be available to the fuel cell workforce – this is something that governments and industry need to invest in now to achieve these green collar jobs.

To see for yourself the job creation potential of the fuel cell industry, please visit our online job creation tool. This allows you to model job creation in the fuel cell industry in any one of the next ten years, broken down by application. Simply input shipment data! The Fuel Cell Today’s job creation tool is available from

For more information on fuel cells, please see our education kit:

Montana Green-Ready Workforce Competency Model

An American Recovery Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Energy Training Partnership grant recipient, Montana Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, is using its grant to targets current craft workers in need of skill upgrades to obtain or retain employment and unemployed workers seeking to enter targeted industries will receive training required for electricians, electrical line workers, carpenters, millwrights, laborers, weatherization technicians, iron workers (welders), HVAC technicians, power plant technicians, plumbers/pipefitters, and heavy equipment operators.

Grantee:  Montana Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee

Location of Grant Activities:  State of Montana

Grant Award:  $5,000,000

Project Description:  Approximately 2,450 participants will complete green competency model training plans and receive a certificate that corresponds to their training as pre-apprentices, apprentices, and journeymen workers in Montana’s current and emerging energy efficiency and renewable energy industries.

Targeted Industry:  Energy-Efficient Building Construction and Renewable Electric Power
Targeted Population:  Unemployed workers

Success Story:  As of the end of the first quarter, the project partners have served just over 400 apprentices and approximately 400 journeymen in their respective trades across the state of Montana to meet target population goals. The partners have participated in two outreach events to advertise training opportunities, recruit apprentices to their specific crafts, and outreach to historically underserved populations, including women and minorities. Currently, of the enrolled apprentices 2 percent are women, 7 percent represent minority groups and 9 percent are veterans.

According to the grantee, the success of the grant project to date was the ability to submit a grant proposal that included ten different Joint Apprenticeship & Training Councils (JATCs) from across the state. This coupled with the coordinated training underway and to be implemented is a great success for apprenticeship and training in the State of Montana and will most likely result in a continued cooperation amongst the trades involved.



Dr. Jonathan Butler is Senior Market Analyst, Asia specializing in market developments in the Asia Pacific region, with an emphasis on portable applications of fuel cells. His current focus includes supply chain developments, legislation, policy and intellectual property (IP) aspects of fuel cell technology, particularly patent and patent opposition analysis, and their commercial implications. He is also interested in the development of fuel cells in the Middle East.

This is the first in a series of posts about fuel cell technology and jobs. Please stay tuned to the Green Jobs CoP over the next few weeks to learn more.

A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that combines oxygen (air) and a fuel (e.g. hydrogen) to form water. This process generates electricity and heat. There are several different types of fuel cell but they are all based around this central design. The essential design of a fuel cell dates back around 160 years, but commercial activity in fuel cells has rapidly increased recently.

The electricity produced by a fuel cell can essentially be used to power any electrical device, from electric cars and buses to laptops and mobile phones. The heat produced can also be used to provide combined heat and power for buildings, or used to generate cooling for buildings via an adsorption chiller.

The key benefits of a fuel cell include high electrical and thermal efficiency, low to zero emissions at point of use, and low noise. Fuel cells are now commercial in a range of applications and markets where low noise, low pollution, and high efficiency operation is valued. These are broadly split into three main application areas, and include:

Portable (any unit designed to be moved)

• Battery chargers for consumer electronic devices;
• Charging units for power tools.

Stationary (any unit designed to be fixed)

• Combined heat and power for residential homes, offices and commercial premises;
• Uninterruptible power for telecoms sites and datacentres.

Transport (any unit designed to go in a vehicle)

• Power units for RVs, yachts and trucks;
• Warehouse materials handling vehicles.

Longer term, fuel cell vehicles represent one of the biggest markets, and most major auto companies are developing fuel cells alongside electric vehicle technology. Consumer electronics are also a huge future market, particularly smart phones, laptop computers and i-pad type devices. Fuel Cell Today’s analyses suggest that several million fuel cells could be adopted in various applications globally over the next decade.

Six months ago the Employment & Training Administration (ETA) rolled out the Green Jobs Community of Practice (CoP), and in that time (despite snowmageddon and now searing heat) it has grown to a community of nearly 2,600 members. Many of whom regularly check out the community; view the available resources – including information on industries and occupations, education and training models, and the Recovery Act of 2009.  This on-line virtual community was designed to provide a platform for Workforce Professionals and green job thought leaders to discuss and share promising practices to create partnerships for Green Job Workforce Solutions and leverage Recovery Act investments.  The Green Jobs CoP is unique in that it provides an interactive platform and information that is explicitly targeted to Workforce Professionals, particularly those at the State and Workforce Investment Board levels, and their role in building a green economy. 

As we lay the foundation now and build a green economy for the future, and in order for the Green Jobs CoP to truly succeed and realize its full potential – we need to hear from you, whether it be as comments on the postings and resources, blogs, or an e-mail to that tells us how we are doing (good and bad), provides suggestions for future topics or bloggers, or lets us know how to better meet your green jobs needs.

Thank you for your support and making the Green Jobs CoP the largest ETA community of its kind.  Now let’s here from you!!!

Charles Cox and Aparna Darisipudi
Green Jobs CoP Managers