What is needed now is a robust policy approach to cogen

By Richard Baillie

It seems that barely a week goes by without cogeneration being in the news in the United States. In this issue of COSPP, we look at what’s been happening in Ohio where moves to promote clean sources of energy have taken root in the past five years.

In May 2008, the Ohio General Assembly passed the state’s landmark Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard as part of Senate Bill 221. The bipartisan legislation requires Ohio’s utilities to obtain an increasing percentage of electricity from renewable sources, including cogeneration/CHP. The Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard has encouraged significant private investment through renewable energy development and in 2013, utilities need to acquire 3% of their electricity supplies from such sources.

Part of the success of such measures is due to growing interest and awareness of environmental issues. A recent poll found that almost 60% of Ohioans would even be willing to pay, if necessary, up to $3 per month, on top of their electricity bills which average $100 a month, in order to use clean electricity sources.

Meanwhile, Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee, is planning to hold hearings reviewing the state’s clean energy law, which should confirm and continue the positive steps Ohio has taken on clean energy.

A similar process appears to be taking place in New York, where the New York State Senate passed legislation to encourage the installation of renewable energy technologies by making them more cost efficient and accessible.

The bill (S1111) would add technologies including farm-based biogas and residential micro-CHP to current state financing initiatives that help make energy efficiency upgrades more attractive to potential consumers, reduce fossil fuel consumption, and support job growth in the clean energy sector.

“Renewable energy technologies are an extremely important part of New York State’s energy future,” said Senator Maziarz, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee. “The addition of these technologies provides residents, local businesses and not-for-profits accessibility to these energy alternatives that they might otherwise have not invested in.”

And this is exactly the point. What’s happened in Ohio and what’s set to happen in New York highlights the advantages of a bottom-up approach to legislation that boosts and promotes CHP. When the environmental, social and financial benefits are fully explained to stakeholders then support for the technology rises. Having a great technology means nothing if people don’t welcome it and there is also a PR battle that needs to be won.

This is the challenge currently facing India, which we also feature in this issue. The poor state of the Indian grid is a nation scandal and there is clearly a role for cogeneration/distributed generation in mitigating some of the worst impacts of this. Unfortunately, India, and many other poor countries in Asia, have not done nearly enough to promote cogen. But there is still time, and as Ohio has shown, god laws can make a world of difference.

Richard Baillie
Managing editor, COSPP

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