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: 15

Comment

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

Join Home Energy Pros

Home Energy Pros

Home Energy Pros was founded by the developers of Home Energy Saver Pro (sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy,) and brought to you in partnership with Home Energy magazine.

Latest Activity

Mark Wozniak posted a status
"I am looking for energy efficiency software training in Massachusetts."
47 minutes ago
daniel manriquez replied to Trip Smith's discussion Starting a Home Weatherization Business. Considering it...
"Here's a contractor perspective on incentives. Not that I agree with all of it, but its a good…"
53 minutes ago
Rick Wertheim joined Kyle Brown's group
Thumbnail

Wrightsoft - Manual J / Manual D

If you use Wrightsoft to calculate loads or design ducts, you likely have questions.  Get answers…See More
2 hours ago
Rick Wertheim joined Leslie McDowell, BPI's group
Thumbnail

Building Performance Institute (BPI)

BPI is the nation's premier standards development, quality assurance and credentialing organization…See More
2 hours ago
Casey Gesell posted a video

How Dr. Energy Saver Helped Me Grow My Home Services Business | Dealer Testimonials

http://www.drenergysaverdealerships.com | 1-877-479-3637 Real Dr. Energy Saver dealers explain how the proven marketing, sales and training programs allowed ...
3 hours ago
Casey Gesell commented on Tom White's video
Thumbnail

Ducts in an Attic

"Hi Tom, Thank you for sharing our Dr. Energy Saver video!"
4 hours ago
Diane Chojnowski posted a discussion

EEBA 2014 Conference Presentations

EEBA has posted many of the presentations from their conference in St. Louis last week. Check them…See More
4 hours ago
Profile IconJames Tucker, Dean Brewer and CPB Mechanical joined Home Energy Pros
4 hours ago

© 2014   Created by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service