Pennysylvania PUC

Officials from the US Department of Energy were keen to explain the benefits, relatively untapped, for Pennsylvania State of developing its combined heat and power potential.

At a hearing at Drexel University, the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) was told that CHP offers one of the most valuable local uses for gas produced from the Marcellus Shale.
Pennysylvania PUC
“We’re suggesting certainly that combined heat and power is an excellent method of converting that gas resource to power and heat in the most cost-effective manner possible,” said Gearoid Foley, a senior technical advisor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Mid-Atlantic Clean Energy Application Center.

There’s a new found interest in CHP as companies again look to save on energy costs, reduce their greenhouse gas emissions or build more resiliency against power outages.

But those testifying at the hearing also detailed obstacles to more widespread adoption in Pennsylvania, including the upfront costs of investment in the complex systems, lack of access to natural gas pipelines in some areas, and ambiguity in grant programs that leave potential project owners uncertain if they qualify for funding.

There are now 95 major combined heat and power sites in the state that generate 7.2 per cent of Pennsylvania’s total electricity, or 2,638 megawatts, the PUC said.

Witnesses emphasized that any policies that the state adopts to promote combined heat and power should be stable and long term or else investors will be reluctant to start new projects.

“CHP projects take time to develop,” said Richard Sweetser, a senior technical advisor for the Mid-Atlantic Clean Energy Application Center. “Uncertainty creates chaos.”

PUC Chairman Robert F. Powelson said the commission hopes to use the information from this and a possible future hearing in Western Pennsylvania to craft combined heat and power policy recommendations for the governor or legislature.

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