The average global efficiency of fossil-fuelled power generation has remained stagnant for decades, at 35%-37%, and recent gains in natural gas plant efficiency threaten to be overtaken by a return to coal-fired plants’ writes Thomas Kerr of the International Energy Agency (IEA) in his article on page 27. He continues: ‘The easiest and most attractive strategy for improving energy supply efficiency is to increase investment in highly efficient CHP and district heating and cooling systems’.

Numerous national studies – some carried out by COSPP’s partner association, WADE, have demonstrated the potential of CHP and other forms of decentralized energy in maximizing the efficiency of fossil fuel use and delivery of heat and power, thus minimizing carbon emissions. Now, the Paris-based IEA is putting its weight behind these technologies. The high-profile organization has a strategy of assessing national data on investment and existing capacities, plus the potential that these technologies offer in terms of generation and minimizing emissions. Its aim is to influence policy, encourage finance (which has been more or less stagnant in the CHP sector in recent years), improve grid connection strategies, and more.

Why does this matter? Because the uptake of CHP and district heating and cooling – rather like renewable energy – varies so very much from country to country, being highly dependent on national strategy and policy. In an era in which policy makers around the globe are concerned for secure supply of energy (and for most large economies that means secure supply of fuels), one might think that technologies offering massive improvements in fuel efficiency over conventional power generation would be right at the top of the agenda – the IEA commitment to CHP/DE will help put it there.

This issue of COSPP has a wide range of features on DE applications, technology and strategy – look out in particular for Gianluca Fulli’s discussion of how CHP is encouraged or constrained by the pattern of operation of distribution systems, and the article by Julie Mclaughlin, who discusses how the CDM Kyoto mechanism is helping CHP projects get off the ground.

Jackie Jones

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