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The power generation industry is facing one of its greatest challenges. As the demand for energy is increasing, so is the environmental damage caused by the combustion of fossil fuels to generate electricity. The industry is recognising the need for new, or adapted, generation technologies that limit harmful emissions of greenhouse gases. One such technology is the fuel cell, which offers the prospect of a new, silent, modular technology with few or no problems of emission. The author describes the principles of operation of fuel cells. Four types of fuel cell are covered: solid polymer electrolyte, phosphoric acid, molten carbonate and solid oxide. The perceived advantages of fuel cells and international and UK fuel cell development programmes are discussed.