The managing director of COGEN Europe, Roberto Francia has outlined the powerful rationale for boosting combined heat and power in the European Union but says the government has work to do in facilitating it to reach its potential.

Speaking to SETIS magazine, a quarterly publication dedicated to coverage of low carbon technologies, Francia said CHP currently saves Europe around 200 million tonnes a year but it has the potential to do much more.
Roberto Francia of Cogen Europe
“The EU’s total thermal energy demand consumes 60% of the primary energy resources in the EU and accounts for around 46% of its final energy use. A well designed CHP plant can reach up to 90% overall efficiency in suitable applications. Savings of around 20% can typically be achieved – depending on the individual plants and the reference case.”

Francia pointed also to the positive implications for decarbonisation targets as CHP can greatly improve the efficiency of fossil fuel based technologies, and contributing to the stability of intermittent renewable energy generation and supply.

“The cogeneration principle can be applied to all energy sources whether renewable or carbon-based, making them more efficient and thereby competitive.”

In the Q&A-format interview Francia also addressed what the realisation of that potential might look like. The Cogeneration Observatory and Dissemination in Europe Project (CODE 2), is the body responsible for identifying the potential for CHP across Europe by the development of 27 National Cogeneration Roadmaps.

“It found that in 2030 CHP could highly efficiently generate 20% of the EU’s electricity and 25% of its heat, on a range of increasingly renewable fuels.”

“However for this potential to be reached, substantive policy measures need to be put in place on EU and national level. There are a number of market and non-market barriers that necessitate the development of policy frameworks which provide investor certainty, and which internalise the positive externalities that the capture of primary energy creates.”

Further elaborating on those barriers that are hindering the technology’s development in Europe, Francia said these could only be overcome via a paradigm shift at policy level.

“In existing energy market structures, savings at the system level remain a “public good”. The fundamental barrier is that there is no market value for the primary energy savings of CHP at the system level. This significantly limits the economic incentive of market actors to invest in CHP solutions.  A lack of revenue due to low wholesale electricity prices has also led to a contraction in the production of CHP. If price signals sufficiently reflected the value of primary energy within the infrastructure of the energy market, then this barrier could be sufficiently offset.”

Recent surveys carried out by COGEN Europe itself show the perception of fragmentation and uncertainty associated with CHP are not helping its cause.

“For investor confidence to be improved, states should avoid actions that create unpredictable or unbalanced market conditions. Germany has introduced a fully-fledged CHP law, as a well-integrated component of its overall energy and environmental policy. This was regarded by the German respondents of our Snap Shot Survey as being a significant factor in unlocking CHP potential in the country.”

“A stronger political commitment to CHP is an important pre-condition to foster the comprehensive legislative approach necessary for its full potential to be reached.”

For the full version of that interview on SETIS click here