Steve Hodgson Editor, COSPP

Cogeneration and decentralized energy have to be foundation elements of almost any scenario leading to a decarbonized energy sector anywhere in the world – I have expanded the main conclusion of a report by COGEN Europe which is the subject of a news item on page 12 of this issue. CHP is already contributing enormous quantities of avoided carbon emissions in Europe, says COGEN Europe, but CHP and decentralized energy can deliver these and additional benefits to countries around the world.

The base arguments for CHP – the need to maximize the efficiency with which fuels are burned to generate electricity and to end the practice of discarding ‘waste’ heat on a massive scale – are powerful enough. But perhaps it’s time to focus on other advantages. Speaking at the UK CHP Association’s annual conference at the end of last year, one energy minister talked of ‘bringing power to the people, communities and local businesses.’ That is: ‘breaking down the barriers between generation and use controlled by a distant, centralized government,’ and ending passive, wasteful energy consumption.

Wherever a loosening of central state control is on the agenda, decentralized energy models can thrive. And, as was also pointed out at that UK CHPA event, where organizations are being asked to tighten their operating costs, the cost-effectiveness of local CHP can be very attractive.

Perhaps in response to public sector clients seeking better energy deals, the market for small- and mid-scale packaged CHP units in Europe is healthier than it has been for a few years. In the US, the corresponding market has been slow but there is optimism that the start of economic recovery and the presence of investment tax credits will see the industry recover this year – Elisa Wood discusses these matters in her feature article from page 28.

Attention is also turning to methods to balance the connection of utility-scale, yet intermittent, wind farms and huge PV ‘farms’ to today’s not-so-smart electricity grids. Utility-scale fossil and nuclear power stations cannot do this balancing job alone. Rather, there’s no doubt that the stability of grids can be boosted by embedding a diverse range of small, local generation plants; preferably incorporating a number of technologies and varying operating schedules. Add smart grid technology for demand side management for a further measure of grid balancing.

Finally, in countries with weak or geographically limited electricity grids, decentralized generation clearly has to be the main form of on-site power supply.

News items and feature stories in this issue cover all of these subjects. Beginning with thoughts on the present and future roles of CHP in both Europe and the US, feature articles also discuss some new technology areas – the very latest advances in gas engine efficiency; solar PV for on-site power supplies to various industrial sectors; biomass-based CHP in India and biogas-fuelled microturbines in France; and a new, ‘nano-scale’ trigeneration concept. We also take a look at the very best new CHP schemes built in the UK, where no-capital finance models, cooling as well as heating, and biomass are topical.

Steve Hodgson Editor, COSPP

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