Fuel cell development company Ceres Power has announced a £2.7million ($3.4 million) deal with UK-based Centrica’s supply arm British Gas to develop Combined Heat and Power (CHP) units for the residential market. The programme, part funded by the government, aims to design, build and evaluate fuel cell CHP units.

The deal with Ceres, an AIM-quoted fuel cell group, follows the recent development of a 1 kW fuel cell stack that uses low cost materials with existing mass-production techniques and can run on natural gas.

The latest developments follow last August’s tie up when British Gas chose to back the Ceres Power-developed fuel cell, making the technology accessible by the 14.5 million UK households with a gas central heating system.

The news comes as Centrica announces that chief executive Sir Roy Gardner is to be replaced by Sam Laidlaw. The appointment will be effective 1 July 2006.

Laidlaw is currently executive vice president of the Chevron Corp.