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Delphi Relies On Key Department of Energy Funds for Research & Development of Revolutionary Fuel Cells That Could Be Key Part Of Clean Energy Economy, But Proposed Federal Budget Would Choke off Funding, Derailing Project And Putting Jobs At Risk

To Help Delphi Finish Research And Move Into Production Stage, Schumer Announces Push To Restore Key Development Funds That Are Absolutely Essential To Completing The Project

Schumer: Delphi Is On The One Yard Line, This Investment Would Help Push The Project Over The Goal Line


Today, at the Delphi Technical Center in Henrietta, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced his effort to restore federal funding that is absolutely vital for Delphi to be able to complete its fuel cell research and development project in Henrietta. The Administration’s proposed 2013 budget would eliminate the Department of Energy’s Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance funding within the DOE Fossil Energy program, which helps fund the development of fuel cell technology and supports approximately 60 jobs in Henrietta. Delphi could be ready to mass produce its solid oxide fuel cell unit as early as 2014, but the loss of this funding could delay the production of these fuel cells units or stop the project altogether. With Delphi nearing the end of the development phase of the technology, Schumer called on his colleagues in the Senate to restore this 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.

“After over a decade of revolutionary research, Delphi in Henrietta is nearing the production stage for what will be the first commercially available mobile solid oxide fuel cell power source in the United States- nothing should prevent that job-creating project from crossing the finish line,” said Schumer. “However, the Department of Energy has recently announced plans to eliminate the fuel cell development funding on which Delphi relies, which could derail this cutting-edge project and make waste of years of research and investments at Delphi. We simply cannot let that happen. As the nation’s need for expanded, more efficient, and cleaner ways to produce power and electricity continue to grow, I want Delphi to lead the charge in the cutting edge development and production of commercial fuel cells, and I am calling on the Administration to reverse course on their policy to defund this program, and my Senate colleagues to restore this funding, so that Delphi can continue to receive this investment and complete their groundbreaking work.”


Schumer toured the Delphi plant and was joined by Mary Gustanksi, Director of Engineering and Customer Satisfaction for Delphi Program Management and Operations as he 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 cuts 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. Schumer is calling on the Administration to reverse course on this policy and for this funding to be restored by his Senate colleagues, so that this fuel cell technology, which can offer a revolutionary solution to our country’s energy needs, can be carried over the finish line and jobs can be preserved.


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 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 for their fuel cell is to provide the electricity needed to run all the systems and equipment on today’s large trucks. Beyond this application Delphi’s fuel cell power unit can be scaled in the future to produce electricity wherever it is needed, such as in homes and businesses. Schumer also highlighted that the military is interested in utilizing this technology to quickly provide electricity for facilities and vehicles on the front lines. Schumer stated that it is critical that the Department of Energy reverse its proposal to cut funding for this work, which would put the production of the world’s first commercially available mobile solid oxide fuel cell power source, and up to 60 jobs at risk.


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.


A copy of Schumer’s letter to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Chair and Ranking Member appears below. It is also signed by Senators Gillibrand, Akaka, Blumenthal, Coons, Lieberman, Stabenow, Tom Udall, and Wyden:


Dear Chairman Feinstein and Ranking Member Alexander:


As Members of Congress with a strong interest in fuel cell and hydrogen energy (FC&H2) technology, we thank you for consistently funding the FC&H2 programs in the Department of Energy (DOE). We are writing to urge your continued and robust support for these activities as you begin consideration of Fiscal Year 2013 Energy and Water Appropriations. These critical programs create jobs, stimulate exports, increase the efficient use of our nation’s natural resources, reduce dependence on foreign oil and enhance energy security, while reducing criteria air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions.


As the Committee develops the FY2013 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, we urge you to support at $128.5 million the fuel cell and hydrogen programs managed by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and $50 million in Fossil Energy (FE) organizations at the Department of Energy. This investment will continue the substantial progress made by these programs in breakthrough research and cost reduction, and restore funding for the successful public-private market transformation program that has accelerated our industry’s transition to market. This proposal is fully consistent with the Committee’s historical level of support for fuel cells and their fuels. In addition, we request that 15%, or not less than $50 million, of the Vehicle Technologies program funding be directed for fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) and hydrogen fueling infrastructure research, development, and deployment—with $25 million directed to infrastructure development and deployment, and $25 million to vehicle development and deployment. Congressional direction is needed to ensure that the DOE pursues a balanced portfolio of advanced vehicle technologies and infrastructure support.


We also request that 10%, or not less than $29 million, of the Advanced Manufacturing program funding be directed for fuel cell and hydrogen energy manufacturing.   Congressional direction is needed to ensure that the DOE pursues a balanced portfolio of advanced technology manufacturing, at a time when our industry is under intense pressure from overseas competitors.


Fuel cell and hydrogen technologies produce jobs and are a crucial part of the portfolio of advanced energy technologies that will help achieve the nation’s oil and greenhouse gas reduction goals. Fuel cells for stationary power and material handling equipment are commercially available and creating jobs today in domestic and export markets. The U.S. is poised to introduce FCEVs by 2015, as long as there is continued support for technology maturation, supplier development and infrastructure deployment. Advanced R&D in FE and EERE, market transformation, technology validation and hydrogen efficiencies in EERE are key components of the fuel cell industry’s success.

The U.S. still has the worldwide lead in fuel cell manufacturing. Retaining and building upon that lead will be much cheaper and more productive than attempting to buy it back once it is lost, as we have seen in other clean energy technologies. Japan, Germany, Korea, and China have made it a national priority to develop these technologies and attract the skills and intellectual property to create a domestic clean energy business as a platform for a future export market.


In the U.S., fuel cell commercialization is within reach, and businesses are making the necessary investments to bring fuel cell-powered products to American customers.  Last year, the US became a net exporter of natural gas. This is a historic shift, and goes a long way towards reducing or eliminating barriers to hydrogen infrastructure. By using the existing natural gas infrastructure and reformer technology, we have an opportunity to further enhance the commercialization of fuel cell and hydrogen energy technology. 


What the industry needs now is help from the Department of Energy in leveraging these private dollars to help mature current markets and aid in creating a competitive landscape for budding ones.  The National Academy of Engineering has suggested that an annual fuel cell and hydrogen energy research budget of at $300 million would fully fund research and deployment programs—approximately the level proposed by the Administration for individual programs for solar, biofuels, and vehicles, among others.  Realizing the budget constraints you are working under, the funding levels enumerated in this letter will send a strong, positive signal to other investors, companies investing in fuel cell products, auto makers, supply chain partners and potential customers.


Thank you for your consideration of our request.


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