CHP: Not the Brad and Jen of energy, but...

I hesitate to start this blog with the words “combined heat and power.”  You might stop reading.

Okay, so it’s not the Brad and Jen of energy. (That would be solar and wind.) But what it lacks in glamour, it makes up for in constancy and results. It’s an old guy, been around for about a century. And while its name might not sound green, it offers an extraordinarily efficient way to energize buildings.

About once a year, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economyissues findings that raise the profile of combined heat and power, or CHP, for at least a couple of days.

Why bother? Because despite its ponderous name, CHP is a “Wow” approach to energy, one that people should talk about at parties as much as they do solar these days.

CHP units, often used at universities, hospitals and factories, put to good use the waste heat created in producing electricity. Usually, we just let this heat vanish into the sky. But CHP, a form of distributed generation, reuses the byproduct to heat and cool buildings or assist in industrial processes. CHP can produce energy twice as efficiently as a typical centralized power plant because it provides two energy sources from one fuel. We know it works because, as ACEEE points out, CHP “has been cleanly and quietly providing over 12% of U.S. electricity.”

If it’s so good, why don’t we use more of it? The US is trying – at least some areas of the country.

“CHP markets differ considerably among states,” said Anna Chittum, ACEEE senior policy analyst and lead author of ACEEE’s September 28 report ‘Challenges Facing Combined Heat and Power Today: A State-by-State ...

Do you live in a pro-CHP state? Not if you’re in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

You do, if you’re in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

(You can find an analysis of your state’s CHP markets and policies here.)

 

CHP’s woes are not simply a result of bad public policy. Local market factors, utility electricity prices and other influences come into play, not the least of which is today’s stalled economy.

Utilities sometimes discourage CHP development because CHP reduces their sales by letting utility customers produce all or part of their own energy. In addition,  CHP tends to be “homeless” in the world of energy regulation and advocacy, according to ACEEE. No big, powerful organization devotes itself to CHP. It has no equivalent to the American Wind Energy Association or the Solar Energy Industries Association. (But you can find information on CHP here and here.)

“CHP is not well understood by regulators, not well-suited for renewable energy programs – because it often is fueled by non-renewable fuels – and too expensive for most short-term energy efficiency programs – because its payback period is long and its upfront costs high compared to many other efficiency measures,” said ACEEE. “Consequently, few state administrations or lawmakers have taken up the cause of CHP.”

So CHP has a public relations problem. It’s not only no Brad and Jen, but it also is downright homeless. Let’s start a trend to get CHP off the street. Open up a conversation at a party with, “Hey, how about that combined heat and power…”

And thank you for reading this blog.

Views: 39

Comment

You need to be a member of Home Energy Pros to add comments!

Join Home Energy Pros

Featured Forum Discussions

Too many BTU's. Too much horsepower?

Started by Steve in General Forum. Last reply by Eric Kjelshus on Saturday. 4 Replies

Stack/wind pressure and flow networks.

Started by Daniel James Grundy in Training. Last reply by Daniel James Grundy Mar 23. 5 Replies

BDT with vermiculite in hollow CMU walls?

Started by Brad Cook in General Forum. Last reply by John Nicholas Mar 23. 2 Replies

Videos

  • Add Videos
  • View All

Latest Activity

Diane Chojnowski's 3 events were featured
1 hour ago
Diane Chojnowski posted events
1 hour ago
Jill Lindman's event was featured

High Performance Mechanicals for Houses That Work at Tacoma Power

May 25, 2017 from 8:30am to 4:30pm
High Performance Mechanical Systems for Houses That Work is a mid-level, full day seminar geared…See More
1 hour ago
Home Energy Magazine's 2 videos were featured
2 hours ago
Sy Richardson's video was featured

Energy Efficient Roofing & 200 MPH Wind Rated

EternaTile delivers the easiest roof to install while delivering energy efficiency, aesthetics and up to 200 MPH sustained wind resistance. Watch how easy it is to install an EternaTile roof.
2 hours ago
Gary Reed is now a member of Home Energy Pros
4 hours ago
Sy Richardson posted a video

Energy Efficient Roofing & 200 MPH Wind Rated

EternaTile delivers the easiest roof to install while delivering energy efficiency, aesthetics and up to 200 MPH sustained wind resistance. Watch how easy it is to install an EternaTile roof.
6 hours ago
Jacob Corvidae commented on Home Energy Magazine's blog post The Elephant in the Room
"Great story, Jim (and Kara).  For anyone interested in training on engaging with…"
7 hours ago

Home Energy Pros

Welcome to Home Energy Pros – the unique digital community by and for those who work in the home energy performance arena.

Home Energy Pros was founded by the developers of Home Energy Saver Pro (supported by the U.S. Department of Energy) and brought to you in partnership with Home Energy magazine.  Home Energy Pros is sponsored by the Better Buildings Residential Network. Please honor our Guidelines

© 2017   Created by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service