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Residential Gas Users Can Become Self-Generators

Residential Gas Users Can Become Self-Generators

It won't be long before natural gas users will be able to generate their own electricity at home, according to Plug Power, which announced that it has completed the successful demonstration of a natural gas-based proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell system. The residential- sized system-which includes a fuel cell stack, power conditioner and a Johnson Matthey fuel processor-produced in excess of 4 kW of electricity this week at the company's upstate New York development facility.

This development soon could affect the manner in which millions of homes receive electricity. Plug Power said the operation of a complete system on natural gas is an important step toward bringing its residential units to market in 2001. The natural gas breakthrough means that the more than 70 million homes that already use natural gas for heating and cooking in the U.S. alone will eventually be able to use natural gas-powered fuel cells to meet all their energy needs.

By coupling the use of low-cost fuels like natural gas with the high efficiency of fuel cell technology, it is estimated that the cost to consumers for electricity will be as much as 20% less than current electricity costs.

"This event represents a significant juncture in our company's goal of advancing home fuel cell technology," said Gary Mittleman, President &amp CEO. "Though Plug Power is designing systems to run off a variety of fuels, the ability to utilize the existing natural gas infrastructure provides an important benefit to homeowners in our largest target markets-the United States and Europe."

The natural gas system utilizes the same design as Plug Power's 7 kW fuel cell prototype-which has operated since June of 1998 on hydrogen and which was the first PEM fuel cell system to provide a home's complete electricity independent from the utility grid. This week, Plug Power integrated a Johnson Matthey HotSpotT natural gas fuel processor into its fuel cell system. The AC electricity generated from the fuel cell was used to power part of the company's laboratory facility. Last month, Plug Power also operated a methanol-based fuel cell power generation system.

"Plug Power's mission is to become the first company to make and profitably sell one million fuel cell systems; the achievements of the past six months play a large role in our realization of that endeavor," Mittleman added.

According to Jack Frost, Fuel Cell Business Manager for the British-based Johnson Matthey, "The use of fuel cells in the home is one of the most exciting revolutions in energy generation the world has seen. It has the potential to provide cheaper and cleaner power where people need it most. The reduction in CO2 emissions made possible by these systems will benefit the whole planet. We are delighted that Johnson Matthey's expertise in fuel conversion technology has helped Plug Power to make this demonstration possible."

Johnson Matthey PLC is a global company with headquarters in the United Kingdom. Its shares are traded on the London Stock Exchange (JMAT) and it also has a Level 1 ADR program in the United States (OTC Bulletin Board: JMPLY - news). Johnson Matthey is a world leader in advanced materials technology, applying the latest technical skills to add real value to precious metals and other specialized materials. Among its principal activities are the manufacture of specialty chemicals, catalysts and pollution control systems, pharmaceutical compounds and the refining, fabrication and marketing of platinum group metals. Johnson Matthey's web site address is www.Matthey.com.

Plug Power (www.plugpower.com), based in Latham, NY, is a joint venture between DTE Energy Company (Detroit Edison) and Mechanical Technology Inc., an early developer of fuel cell technologies.

Ellen Beswick

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