Slow pace of policy advances limits CHP gains

by Steve Hodgson

Energy policy in Europe moves exceedingly slowly; so slowly that it’s hard to see any real effect, even now, of the 2004 CHP Directive. Now, with the text of the proposed new directive on energy efficiency (a much wider measure that will also contain a section to supersede the 2004 CHP Directive) due to be finalized this summer, it’s fair to ask whether this new measure will be any more effective.

Unlikely, said Pieter Verberne, the chairman of COGEN Europe, speaking at the trade organization’s annual conference in Brussels on 3 May. Verberne, who runs cogeneration plants for AKZO Nobel in the Netherlands, spoke of the ‘failure’ of the 2004 Directive and the ‘likely failure’ of the proposed new directive to deliver the necessary stimulus for cogeneration.

Verberne was followed by a European Commission insider, head of the energy efficiency unit for the European Commission, Paul Hodson. He agreed that that the 2004 directive had not contributed to an increase in Europe’s installed capacity of cogeneration plants ” indeed the market has seen stagnation at around 11% of total electricity generating capacity since 2004.

However, the CHP Directive has been an important first step in defining CHP and its benefits, gathering Europe-wide data on the technology, defining the necessary grid access needs and setting the target to double CHP to 21% of total capacity by 2020. CHP is already contributing significant amounts to targets in three key areas: energy efficiency, carbon reductions and increased use of renewables, added Hodson, though this hardly adds up to a ringing endorsement of a measure that has been in place for nearly a decade.

And the CHP part of the proposed energy efficiency directive? The Commission should not be criticized for what other parties (the European Parliament and the Council of Minsters) have done to its proposals for the directive, said Hodson. The revised text should deliver perhaps around a third of the energy efficiency benefits originally proposed, he added. We can look forward to slow and limited progress again, it seems.

Thankfully, policy support is not quite everything. Looking wider, feature articles in this issue illustrate some of the technology areas in which cogeneration is making progress around the world. Stationary fuel cells make one theme ” the feature on page 25 describes how fuel cells are being used with on-site renewables to deliver reliable on-site power in the US, while fuel cell-based micro-CHP units have broken onto the market in Japan ” see page 53 onwards. Meanwhile, Finland is pioneering the development of waste-to-biogas CHP with district heating; the US is showing the way forward with gas turbine CHP plants fuelled with biogases; trigeneration technology has reached Saudi Arabia; and the use of modular small-scale CHP units has taken off for buildings in the UK.

Last, on market and business issues, we take an inside view of the prospects for CHP growth in China and the opportunities for overseas suppliers; and some innovative thinking on project finance for CHP in the US.

Steve Hodgson
Editor, COSPP

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