Steve Hodgson, Editor, COSPP
Can cogeneration play an important role in the ‘smart’ electricity grid concept being developed around the world, and then within real, physical, smart grids? Most certainly, suggests COGEN Europe’s Fiona Riddoch in a feature article in this issue on page 15. CHP has always delivered a range of benefits to several market participants – reduced energy costs and an element of energy independence for the host consumer; lower emissions for the environment; and local grid reinforcement services for the utility.
Of course utilities only benefit if they actively manage their use of the grid at the point of connection of the cogeneration plant – but this is one part of what smart grids are about. The new angle is the use of grid-embedded CHP plants to balance the growing, yet intermittent, output from some renewable technologies, mainly wind farms. Less efficient power-only plants would also do this job, but why not, aided by the use of heat storage technologies, capitalize on the efficiency bonus which CHP delivers?
What about another concept for the future – energy services. Here energy suppliers are incentivized to make their returns not on the volume of energy sold, but the efficiency with which they deliver quantities of useful heat, light, power etc to consumers. Imagine what this business model could deliver in terms of energy efficiency. But it’s not a concept for the future – the energy services model has been used with medium to large-scale CHP in Europe for quite some years. A specialist third-party energy services company installs CHP equipment at no capital cost to the consumer and sells its output at rates below those for conventional imported power and boiler-generated heat. The inherently high efficiency of CHP means that the energy services company is able to recoup its costs, and make a return, from the difference between those rates – and can maximize its return by maximizing the efficiency with which the plant runs.
The model can work at smaller-scale too, and one the ‘on-site utility’ for CHP at a building scale has reached the US, as Barry Sanders describes in another article in the issue on page 20.
Elsewhere, we take a look at the use of gas turbines in cogeneration and on-site power both in theory – how to improve operability, output and efficiency – and in practice – at a large new-build project from Alstom which serves an aluminium plant in Dubai (on page 36). We also include a feature from Dalkia Asia on its fascinating work managing and upgrading district heating systems in China (on page 32); the innovative use of microturbines in the fast-growing and energy-hungry data centre sector (on page 40); and the considerable scope for decentralized energy in Thailand (on page 44).
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