US industry is being encouraged to adopt energy efficiency measures and, where appropriate, CHP by the Industrial Technologies Program of the Department of Energy. Bob Gemmer, Ted Bronson, John Cuttica and Tommi Makila describe the work of the programme, which is partly delivered through eight regional organizations.

The energy marketplace has suffered from severe turbulence over the last few years. Prior to 2008, escalating worldwide demand caused prices for all forms of energy to skyrocket. Then the sudden economic downturn significantly reduced demand and prices. Ongoing international climate change negotiations and uncertainty regarding carbon regulations makes any predictions about the future difficult.


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Figure 1. Potential benefits of increased CHP capacity

Amidst this uncertainty and price volatility, the need for industry in the United States to transform its energy habits has remained constant.

According to the most recent data from the US Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Information Administration (EIA), the entire US economy consumed approximately 99 quads (9916 Btu) in 2008. Of this, the industrial sector consumed 31 quads (3116 Btu) or almost one-third.

The industrial sector accounts for a greater portion of total energy consumption than the transportation, commercial, or residential sectors.

The US industrial sector consists of both manufacturing and non-manufacturing industries. Manufacturing industries include major process industries, such as chemicals and steel manufacturing, as well as final fabrication industries that produce both durable and non-durable goods. Non-manufacturing industries include agriculture, mining, and oil and gas extraction industries.

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Geographic coverage of the eight Clean Energy Regional Application Centres

Because the industrial sector is so diverse, the amount of energy used varies significantly among its subsectors. A relatively small number of heavy manufacturing industries account for most of industrial energy use; most of these industries transform raw materials into higher-value materials and end products. They include chemicals, petroleum refining, steel, and forest products, to name a few.

The nature of end use consumption also varies among different industrial sub-sectors. While motors, steam systems and compressed air systems use large amounts of energy, much of industrial energy use is process-specific. Petroleum and natural gas are the most widely used fuels in industry, accounting for 36% and 34% of total consumption, respectively. Electricity consumption represents 14% of industrial energy use, renewable resources 9%, and coal 8%.

Within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), the Industrial Technologies Program (ITP) is responsible for ‘improving national energy security, climate, environment, and economic competitiveness by transforming the way US industry uses energy.’ Over the last few decades, US industry has already made significant progress in energy efficiency. According to the EIA (the US Energy Information Administration), the energy intensity (that is, the amount of energy used per unit of product produced) of US industry decreased by approximately 50% between 1973 and 2008. Even under a business-as-usual scenario, this decline in industrial energy intensity is expected to continue. Between 2008 and 2035, EIA projects that the value of US industry shipments will grow by 44% but industrial energy consumption will increase by only 8%.

The goal of ITP is to further accelerate this downward trend in industrial energy use by helping US industry reduce its energy intensity by 25% in ten years.

To achieve this ambitious goal, ITP supports industrial energy efficiency research and development (R&D) and technology delivery.

The goal of DOE-supported research and development work is to develop and deploy cross-cutting technologies that provide the greatest energy saving potential across all sectors of industry, as well as industry-specific R&D in the most energy intensive sectors and sub-sectors, including chemicals, steel and forest products. ITP’s technology delivery activities help industrial plants save energy by assessing energy saving opportunities and facilitating adoption of best energy management practices and new technologies.


Combined heat and power (CHP), also known as cogeneration, systems are among the most promising energy efficient technologies supported by ITP.

The ITP programme defines CHP as the concurrent production of electricity and heat from a single energy source. CHP systems recover heat that normally would be wasted in electricity generation, therefore saving fuel that would otherwise be used to produce heat or steam in a separate unit.

CHP holds great promise for decreasing energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions in the US, and it is one of the few options in the portfolio of energy alternatives that combine environmental effectiveness with economic viability and improved competitiveness. Nationally, CHP system capacity currently is 85 GW, nearly 9% of total US electricity generating capacity.

If this percentage were to increase to 20% by 2030, significant benefits would be realized. A study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) published in December 2008 estimates that, if the 20% capacity were to be reached, this alone would avert 60% of potential growth in carbon dioxide emissions between 2006 and 2030 – see Figure 1. This is equivalent to taking more than 150 million cars off the road.

Given this enormous potential, deployment of CHP technologies is a major focus of DOE’s industrial programmes. This is reflected in the fact that one quarter of ITP funding – or approximately $25 million per year – is dedicated to distributed energy and CHP programmes. In addition to this funding commitment, $150 million of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funding has been directed towards ‘shovel-ready’ CHP and district energy projects.

For example, DOE has awarded $10 million for the construction of a 45 MW CHP district energy plant at the Texas Medical Center – the largest medical centre in the world, with over 140 buildings on its campus. Another large project supported by ARRA funds is the Seattle Steam Company’s district energy plant that provides electricity and steam for approximately 200 buildings in Seattle’s central business district.

This 50 MW project has received $19 million in federal funding, and it is estimated that the improvements to the CHP plant will save 1.84 trillion Btu annually compared to the current, inefficient infrastructure.

DOE’s CHP activities, underway in the ITP programme office, strategically support the agency’s industrial energy reduction goals. For example, CHP is integrated into the Department’s ongoing ‘Save Energy Now’ initiative, which aims to increase deployment of energy efficiency technologies at industrial facilities.

The CHP programme also benefits from strong stakeholder relationships developed by ITP over many years. To effectively promote the use of CHP technologies, these partnerships with industry and states as well as national and regional energy-efficiency organizations are of paramount importance.

DOE is not alone in working to promote CHP. By hosting bimonthly ‘CHP Team Meetings,’ DOE aims to keep all key players informed about each other’s activities and to support continual collaboration.

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The 4.6 MW Solar Centaur 50 CHP system at the Frito-Lay plant in Killingly, Connecticut.

Participants in these meetings include other DOE programme offices, the eight DOE-funded Clean Energy Regional Application Centers (RACs), the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other federal agencies, as well as key trade groups and other organizations that are involved in promoting CHP technologies.

In collaboration with its partners, DOE’s development and deployment of CHP technologies focuses on three primary areas:

  • research and development efforts for new and more efficient CHP technologies and systems
  • technology validation projects to provide unbiased performance data to help potential customers establish that CHP will be able to help them to meet their energy and other strategic objectives
  •  market transformation efforts aimed at removing barriers to adoption of CHP technologies.


DOE has supported significant improvements in CHP technologies. According to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in the last ten years, reciprocating engine efficiency has increased from 25-38% to 44% and criteria pollutant emissions have been significantly reduced.

To achieve these technological advances, DOE has provided long-term research funding to three engine manufacturers – Caterpillar, Cummins and Dresser Waukesha – as well as to Argonne and Oak Ridge National Laboratories and several universities.

These firms and research laboratories have focused their R&D efforts on improving ignition systems, reducing friction, and producing analytical computer models to upgrade engines, pistons, piston rings and cylinder liners.

Similar advances have been achieved in other CHP components and systems. DOE’s R&D efforts on advanced materials have helped improve the efficiency of ultra-lean burn gas turbines from 29% to 38% and microturbines from 17-30% to 38% in ten years. By focusing on the development of packaged, integrated energy systems, average CHP system efficiency has risen from 54% to over 70%.


DOE financially supports the deployment of demonstration projects featuring innovative technologies and new CHP applications. Efforts focus on high-potential, high-profile sectors with opportunities for project replication.

For example, DOE has supported measurement and verification of the performance of new CHP installation at a Frito-Lay facility in Killingly, Connecticut, to validate the potential for CHP in the food processing industry – a market sector that has not adopted CHP technology very eagerly despite good market potential.

This plant, which employs 400 people, processes 113,000 kg per day of corn and potatoes for snack foods. The 4.6 MW Solar Centaur 50 gas turbine provides 100% of the facility’s electricity needs and 80% of steam needs, cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by over 5%. Taking the factory essentially off the grid, the CHP system also provides significant system benefits by easing congestion on the local electricity grid.


In many ways, addressing market barriers for wider adoption of CHP technologies is the most difficult challenge for DOE. Companies and other organizations do not tend to turn to federal agencies for assistance when planning their facilities. While some explore government funding opportunities, most project developers and managers do not expect – or are not aware of – project support opportunities from the federal government.

In the National CHP Roadmap Workshop in October 2000, a group of CHP companies and stakeholders set an ambitious goal of doubling installed CHP capacity in the US from 46 GW in 1998 to 92 GW by 2010.

The group determined that local barriers and lack of end-user awareness often prevent significant expansion of CHP deployment. To address the need to overcome these barriers in a practical and cost-effective manner, the concept of DOE-funded CHP Regional Application Centers (RACs) was born.

Recently, the scope of the technologies covered by the RACs was expanded to include waste heat recovery and district energy systems, in addition to CHP. To reflect this change, the RACs have been renamed as ‘Clean Energy Regional Application Centers’.


The RACs are the technical assistance and educational support arm of the DOE CHP Program. Eight RACs cover all 50 states. The RACs conduct targeted education and outreach activities and provide technical assistance and unbiased information to those interested in exploring the feasibility of CHP, waste heat recovery and district energy systems.

In addition, the RACs work to lessen regulatory barriers to technology adoption and conduct market assessments to analyze CHP, waste heat recovery and district energy market potential in numerous sectors.


For the average facility manager or operator, investigating CHP, waste heat recovery, or district energy systems may be overwhelming. Exploring the possibilities requires time, resources and expertise. This is where the RACs fit in. The RACs provide support to facility decision-makers as they determine whether these technologies might be feasible.

The RACs guide the assessment and evaluation process through preliminary feasibility analysis or by educating upper management on the technical, financial and environmental benefits of these technologies. The RACs also assist their clients in hiring engineering firms to perform comprehensive feasibility studies and system designs. In these situations, RAC staff act as neutral third-party experts looking out for the client’s interest.

It is also important to note that, even though the purpose of the RACs is to promote greater adoption of these technologies, they aim to provide facilities with unbiased and accurate information. When a CHP system does not make sense, the RACs will tell their clients so.

The first RAC – the Midwest Clean Energy Application Center – was established in 2001. Since that time, seven more RACS have been established, all supporting the development of more than 350 CHP projects nationwide, representing approximately 1.3 GW of installed system capacity. These systems have avoided more than 7.7 million tons of carbon dioxide, or the equivalent of taking 1.2 million cars off the road.


A larger barrier often overlooked is the lack of awareness by prospective end-users on how clean energy technologies can help their facility.

To publicize and educate others on the benefits and use of CHP technologies in commercial, industrial and institutional facilities, and in district energy environments, the RACs conduct various local and regional outreach activities.

They have already held more than 170 end-user focused workshops for over 10,000 individuals.

These outreach efforts span all market sectors, including municipal, healthcare, federal and state government, manufacturing, commercial buildings, multi-family housing, agriculture and wastewater treatment facilities, as well as infrastructure security.

Each RAC focuses on the market sectors that offer the greatest potential in its geographic area. For example, the Midwest RAC has conducted analyses and outreach efforts in the biofuels industry, while the Northwest RAC has placed emphasis on the pulp and paper industry.

To support these outreach activities, the RACs have developed a large number of project profiles to highlight different CHP systems and applications.

In many cases, regulatory barriers are a significant hindrance to the adoption of CHP, waste heat, and district energy technologies.

The RACs do not lobby or take part in other advocacy work, but they are actively involved in educating regulators and legislators about the benefits of these technologies and how regulatory barriers to greater utilization of the technology can be removed.

This regulatory work, which is often conducted in co-operation with other stakeholders in the region, has led to positive regulatory and legislative changes in several states.

For example, New Jersey law now allows CHP and district energy plants that provide thermal energy to contiguous properties to also provide electric power to those properties (even if they cross a right-of-way) without having to be classified as utilities.

This is a major win for this industry. In North Carolina, the renewable energy and energy efficiency portfolio standard includes CHP as an eligible technology.


If industry based in the United States is to become significantly more efficient and DOE is to reach its ambitious goals, both energy efficiency and CHP project ideas need to be turned into reality.

The technologies have proven effective, but facility owners and operators need to be convinced to implement them and must have access to funding for installations.

The United States Department of Energy’s Industrial Technologies Program intends to continue its CHP and distributed energy programme so that end-users have the information, the tools and the resources to utilize CHP, waste heat recovery, and district energy in a cost-effective and energy-efficient manner.

Bob Gemmer is the Industrial Distributed Energy technology manager, Industrial Technologies Program, US Department of Energy.Email:

Ted Bronson is with Power Equipment Associates and is the Department of Energy Clean Energy Regional Application Center co-ordinator.

John Cuttica is with the University of Illinois at Chicago and is a Department of Energy Clean Energy Regional Application Center project manager.

Tommi Makila is a policy analyst with Energetics Incorporated.

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