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Greater CHP Use Cited as Top Blackout Fighter

Issue 3 and Volume 108.

Steve Blankinship,
Associate Editor

Addressing last summer’s U.S./Canadian power blackout before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in January, John Jimison, executive director and general counsel of the U.S. Combined Heat and Power Association (USCHPA), cited the increased use of CHP as the option that can best reduce the odds of the next blackout. CHP once provided a far greater share of U.S. generation (20% in 1940) than it does today (8%).

Greater use of combined heat and power has the potential to fill the void created by transmission inadequacies and generation shortages. With its founding in 1999, the United States Combined Heat and Power Association (USCHPA), established a goal of doubling the amount of CHP capacity in the U.S. by 2010, increasing domestic CHP capacity from 46 GW in 1998 to 92 GW. At the time, most energy forecasts called for the addition of a paltry 4 GW or less over that ten-year period.

As of the end of 2002, Energy and Environmental Analysis, a consulting company with a long history of analysis of distributed generation, determined there were 77 GW of installed CHP in the U.S. “We therefore believe we are somewhat ahead of pace in meeting our stated goal,” says Jimison. “But we are also aware that much of the low-hanging fruit has been picked.”

Jimison says the potential for further applications of CHP technologies is enormous, but the key barriers to reaching that potential are the difficulty of interconnecting to utility systems without enormous costs and delays, and the difficulty for CHP project sponsors in monetizing the many public benefits of CHP related to reduced emissions, reduced land-use impact, and benefits to the grid.

In Europe, the use of CHP is a well-established energy supply option, providing about 10% of European electricity production, 10% of the EU heat market and a small amount of the cooling demand. CHP plants, found in all European countries, range in size from 1 kW to more than 500 MW. CHP is used in all sectors of the economies of Europe from individual buildings to heavy industry and large district heating schemes. Euro CHP utilizes coal, gas, oil, biofuels and solar energy.

In 1997, the European Commission set a target to double the share of CHP in the EU electricity market from 9% to 18% by 2010. However, no significant progress was ever made toward achieving the goal. In December 2003, the EU Parliament approved a Cogeneration Directive that becomes law this year. Although the directive does not set mandatory targets for EU members, it establishes a series of measures favoring cogeneration and provides a framework for national policies to increase its use. Among the provisions is the requirement for member nations to evaluate the potential and barriers to CHP in each of their countries and report progress periodically.