Recent progress of the ‘Waxman Markey’ bill on clean energy and energy security part-way through the US legislative process last Friday translated into much optimism among speakers at the first day of the International District Energy Association (IDEA) annual conference in Washington DC on 29 June. Still some distance from reaching law, the bill – the American Clean Energy and Security Act – contains several clauses which should assist CHP and district energy, as well as establishing the framework for a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade system for the US.

IDEA Chairman Dennis Fotinos welcomed a record 650 attendees from 16 countries to the event with the message that district energy is a business model ‘whose time has come around – again’. Ex Indiana Congressman Philip Sharp added that he expects that the US will see a new federal law on carbon and the climate by the end of 2010 – and a law that works with the economy, rather than against it. John Jimison, until recently with the US Clean Heat and Power Association, agreed that the US is on the point of new leadership and effective energy policy from the White House down – though legislation needs to be refined.

Waxman Markey currently contains, among its 1500 pages, a requirement for large electricity suppliers to generate an increasing proportion of their power from renewables and CHP, as well as clauses on smart grids, energy efficiency in buildings and industrial energy efficiency – all of which could benefit CHP.

Lunchtime saw the presentation, by the US Environmental Protection Agency of Energy Star CHP awards to two organizations. Consolidated Edison Steam Operations of New York received an award for a new 360 MW CHP system with an efficiency of nearly 80%, while Duquesne University Energy Center in Pittsburgh received an award for using a 5 MW CHP system to provide space and water heating, as well as cooling.

There was no IDEA district energy system of the year award this year; instead, most winners of this award from 1993 to last year appeared again to update their stories. Systems varied in age from over a century to just a few years; used all kinds of fossil fuels – increasingly augmented with renewable sources – to provided hot water, steam, power, cooling and mechanical power – with reliabilities up to 100%.