Brendan Dow: Tough market.
A HIGH-TECHNOLOGY energy company spun off from the CSIRO two decades ago says entrenched power companies and shifting government policy are forcing it to all but abandon Australia.
Ceramic Fuel Cells, which makes small fuel cells that generate power and heat from gas or renewable energy, has shed 60 of its 110 local staff since July, and expects 98 per cent of sales to come from overseas this year.
The company will retain its research and development at Noble Park but will shift the bulk of its operations to Germany.
"With the current conditions, the current support that we have, the current incumbent utilities, it means that the job of commercialising in Australia is just too difficult," managing director Brendan Dow said.
Known as BlueGen, the company's product creates electricity and heat by passing natural gas over ceramic fuel cells.
The company says it cuts the average home's annual carbon dioxide emissions by 18 tonnes.
Mr Dow said power consumers were at the mercy of the dominant power generators and retailers such as Origin, Energy Australia and AGL, which had little incentive to innovate or improve energy efficiency.
Without bipartisan support for an overhaul of the industry, he said it was unlikely the federal government's energy white paper, to be released next week, would make much difference.
"We're focusing on those markets that give us the absolute certainty," Mr Dow said.
That certainty included financial support, with the company able to tap into a €250 million ($A312 million) business development fund offered by Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia state.
Its BlueGen fuel cell costs about $30,000 in Australia but as little as €10,000 ($A12,500) in Europe, he said. The company sold 40 units locally last year but the number may fall to as few as 10 this year.
Generous feed-in tariffs mean an operator of the unit can generate about €2600 ($A3250) a year in Germany, more than twice the $1500 average return an Australian operator can expect, he said.