FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 27, 2012
SCHUMER: BILL TO RESTORE FUEL CELL FUNDS FOR GM AND DELPHI CLEARS KEY SENATE COMMITTEE – FUNDS WOULD HELP CONTINUE TEN YEARS OF RESEARCH AND PROTECT ROCHESTER-AREA JOBS
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that a key Senate Committee has cleared legislation to provide federal funding that is absolutely vital for Delphi to be able to complete its fuel cell research and development project in Henrietta, and to help fund the development of hydrogen refueling infrastructure which is critical to commercializing the hydrogen fuel cell work being developed at GM’s Honeoye Falls Fuel Cell Center.
Earlier this year, the Administration proposed eliminating the Department of Energy’s Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA) funding within the DOE Fossil Energy program, which helps fund the development of fuel cell technology and supports approximately 60 jobs in Henrietta and cuts $24 million for fuel cell R&D in the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). Delphi could be ready to mass produce its solid oxide fuel cell unit as early as 2014, but the loss of this SECA funding could delay the production of these fuel cells units or stop the project altogether. After the budget was revealed, Schumer called on his colleagues in the Senate to restore this SECA funding so that Delphi can complete the project which will play a key role in reducing our dependence on foreign oil and developing a clean energy economy. Today Schumer announced that the Senate Committee on Energy and Water passed legislation that would restore $25 million in federal SECA funding that would allow Delphi’s critical research to continue.
“With Delphi on the one-yard line of completing their groundbreaking fuel cell research and GM making important breakthroughs at Honeoye Falls, it would be wrong to take the ball away, potentially putting people out of work and cutting off critical clean energy research and development,” said Schumer. “Investing in job-creating, clean energy projects is great for the Rochester area, our environment, and our economy. The Committee’s vote of confidence in this program is a giant step forward, but there is still more work to do. I’m going to keep fighting for this funding on the Senate floor, until its signed, sealed, delivered and headed to Rochester.”
“We appreciate the support that Sen. Schumer provided in helping to restore SECA funding to levels similar to last year,” said Mary Gustanski, vice president of engineering and operations at Delphi Powertrain. “We look forward to working with the Department of Energy to define the deliverables and requirements for this funding.”
This legislation also restored $24 million for a total of $104 million for the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) for fuel cell development. Moreover, the legislation directs a significant portion of this funding to be used specifically for developing hydrogen refueling infrastructure systems which are vital to making sure hydrogen-fueled vehicles, like those under development at GM’s Honeoye Falls facility, can be commercialized. The more roadside filling stations that can provide hydrogen fuel expands the market for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The legislation also provides capacity for technology validation and market transformation activities to grow fuel cell development.
“GM’s facility in Honeoye Falls is a leader in automotive fuel cell development and we applaud Senator Schumer’s hard work to secure stable funding for fuel cell R&D and Market Transformation programs,” said Charlie Freese, Director of Global Fuel Cell Activities. “The Senator's leadership is valuable in the important ongoing effort to develop alternative fuel transportation.”
Schumer toured the Delphi plant in March when he first announced his push to restore the Department of Energy funding that was eliminated in the proposed 2013 budget and is critical to fuel cell technology development at Delphi in Henrietta. At the facility, Delphi is developing fuel cell technology that is up to 50% more efficient than a diesel engine, produces far fewer emissions, and can be run on readily available fuels, like gasoline, diesel, biofuels and natural gas. This critical research project supports about 60 jobs and has been in the works for more than 10 years, with the support of $22.6 million over the last four years from the Department of Energy’s Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance funding program. However, the Administration’s proposed 2013 budget would cut this program that is critical to the continued success and completion of Delphi’s research, which can carry the groundbreaking project into the production stage.
Rochester is at the forefront of the development of fuel cell technology, thanks to work at Delphi Technical Center in Henrietta, the General Motor’s hydrogen fuel cell R&D center in Honeoye Falls, and research at the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester. In order to preserve that leadership role, Schumer stated during his March visit that it is critical that the Administration reverse course on their policy to defund this program that supports research at facilities like Delphi that was started years ago as a public private partnership to help the United States maintain a worldwide competitive advantage in the development of new alternative energy technology. In 1999, the Department of Energy created an initiative to develop and commercialize Solid Oxide Fuel Cell technology. This initiative, within the DOE’s Fossil Energy program pulled together four teams of industry, government, national laboratories, and academic partners to jointly find ways to take this technology out of the lab and use it to create a host of real-world products.
The Department of Energy made these initial investments beginning in 1999 so that ten to 15 years later, the United States, and cities like Rochester, would have the technology developed to create new jobs here and create new power sources. Delphi has proven successful in this endeavor, and after a decade of research and development, is set to begin commercially producing their solid oxide fuel cell unit in two to three years, potentially as soon as 2014. Delphi's first commercial application of its fuel cell is to provide the electricity needed to run accessories in the cab of a large truck during extended idling periods. Beyond this application Delphi’s fuel cell power unit can be scaled in the future to produce electricity for other applications, such as in homes and businesses.
Schumer successfully fought back against similar cuts in 2012 budget negotiations, and was able to restore $25 million in funding for this program, in order to keep Delphi and other companies on track to complete fuel cell research. Schumer is again pushing the Department of Energy to reverse course with this policy, so that Delphi can begin producing a fuel cell technology that is critical for a clean energy economy, particularly as many states enact strict anti-idling rules for diesel engines. Demand for this technology is high and will only continue to grow. Schumer noted that with commercial success at Delphi and local jobs on the line, it is critical for the Administration to reverse course and maintain DOE’s Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance program. The Committee’s decision to restore these cut funds is an important step forward towards ensuring Delphi can complete its research project. The legislation will now be sent to the full Senate for a vote.