As COGEN Europe’s Fiona Riddoch makes clear in this issue (see page 17), despite its many advantages, CHP/cogeneration still firmly needs a supportive legal and regulatory framework to survive and thrive in Europe. The situation in the US is very similar – at the US Clean Heat and Power Association’s annual meeting held in Washington recently, politicians took prominent slots on both days of the event to explain the latest federal and state government support measures – not that they could be specific about the future in those last few days of limbo before US mid-term elections. On both continents there is a clear need for the industry and its advocates to continuously press the case for CHP to government.
So why is it that the fortunes of technically mature, high-efficiency CHP are so closely tied to the whims of governments and regulators? One explanation is the curious and sometimes difficult-to-comprehend niche, or rather niches, that CHP inhabits in the energy firmament. Let’s ask some simple questions about CHP.
Is it developed and operated by utilities, or by energy consumers? A bit of both, with third party energy services companies taking the role of developer too, for some schemes. Is CHP a large-scale issue, or something smaller? Again, both – it operates within a size range so vast that the 1 kW home-sized micro-CHP scheme bears almost no relation to the hundreds of MW capacity attached to an oil refinery. And there’s a huge range between these extremes of scale. What’s the dominant technology in CHP? It’s complicated – there are engines and turbines and generators, and heat recovery steam boilers and fuel cells and district heating and cooling networks, to name the most important ones. The typical fuel? Well it used to be coal and that became natural gas with a little bit of oil, and now a range of renewable fuels are being introduced as well. Confused – you will be.
An industry as diverse as this necessarily presents a complicated picture to outsiders, and advocates need to work hard to get an understandable message across. The simplest version of that message is: while we continue to burn fossil fuels to produce electricity, we should strive to do this at the highest efficiency possible by making use of the cogenerated heat.
In this issue of COSPP we try to present articles that cover most, if not all, of the niches for CHP and its relatives in on-site energy provision. So we have articles on energy policy and investment in Europe; the status of developments in micro-CHP across the world; and the very particular use of district cooling on a massive scale in the Middle East. We also include project profile articles on CHP as used in a district energy setting in the US and a waste-to-energy scheme in Sweden. Finally, we take a look at the increasing use of wind turbines to supply electrical energy not to the grid, but to the on-site organization that provides the site for the turbines.
Steve Hodgson Editor, COSPP
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