The European cogeneration sector must find its own way to contributing to the EU’S energy efficiency objectives, according to a top European Commission chief.

Marie Donnelly, Director of Renewables at the DG Energy of the European Commission, indicated the stance of the commission when addressing a question from Michael Brown of Delta-ee at COGEN Europe in Brussels on Tuesday.

Brown had asked Donnelly what she thought the Commission could most effectively do to get combined heat and power in Europe off its flatlining market share of 10% up to its target of 16%.

Donnelly responded, “Let me be controversial: why should we? Why should we encourage one technology to be 16%?”

Brown elaborated, “Because, firstly, CHP can cost-effectively help achieve a lot of your goals; secondly the 16% is an EC modelling number. Are you saying actually that the European Commission doesn’t necessarily have an objective to grow any technology shares?”, to which Donnelly replied, “The only objective we have is 20% renewables by 2020 and at least 27% by 2030. Beyond that, we have no technology choices – and even within the basket of renewables we don’t say it has to be wind or solar.”
Marie Donnelly
Earlier this year, on the eve of the EU Energy Union announcement, Donnelly had indicated a strong belief that Europe needed to tackle what was a heating rather than electricity problem. She told a gathering at the Westminster Energy Environment and Transport Forum in London on the eve of the announcement that the priority for the bloc needs to be heating and cooling rather than power.

“Heating and cooling of our buildings consumes 46% of our final energy, with power at just 21%. So often at meetings we debate about electricity when really the key issue we need to address is heating and cooling – at last this is an issue being taken up by the commission.”

Donnelly, who told the forum that there should be an end-of-year strategy in place for heating and cooling in Europe, reinforced that message through reference to recent headline events in the East.

“The crisis that has been brought about by Russia is a heat crisis, not an electricity crisis – it is not the lights that will go out, it is the heating. The Energy Union is about refocusing what we really need to address in terms of our energy policy.”

During Tuesday’s session, entitled ‘The Power of Heat – CHP’s contribution to achieving EU policy objectives’, such positive sentiments about the sector still chimed with Brown, who told the audience that there was reason to be ‘a little bit upbeat about the CHP situation in Europe – not something we hear as a major theme at these conferences, certainly not in the last two to three years.’  

‘When I travel outside Europe people always say, “you’re coming from the home of CHP; we want to do here what you’ve done in Europe”. So never forget the European success story. The other side to that is also the tremendous opportunity to build on that success. There are still hundreds of thousands of sites in Europe with sufficient heating/cooling/energy demand which are perfect for CHP. Europe’s struggling utilities are losing money, having to diversify and looking at CHP among other energy services.’

Despite the positive soundings recently associated with the sector, the present scene according to Brown shows a worrying stagnation in progress that needs to be addressed.

‘The problem is really the present. For the last four to five years, if you look at the statistics, the EU CHP market is pretty flat. It’s remained at around a 10%-11% share of overall electricity generation, and in some countries is even in decline. Many CHP plants are not operating within the hours they used to; some are even closing. The biggest challenge is with industrial CHP – that’s where most of the problems seem to be at moment. Buildings are doing better but these tend to be smaller systems so you don’t see them in the stats.’