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: 20


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.  Home Energy Pros is sponsored by the Better Buildings Residential Network.

Latest Activity

Bob Mariani replied to Alan Gindt's discussion Minneapolis Blower Door System for sale in the group Energy Auditing Equipment for Sale, Trade or to Purchase
"Is this still available?"
1 hour ago
Profile IconWilliam Smith and Juan Jose Palacios joined Home Energy Pros
7 hours ago
Eric Kjelshus replied to John Gillis's discussion Energy Savings of Whole House Fans vs. Air Conditioners in SoCal Featured on New 'Ask This Old House' Season in the group News & Announcements
"2000 SF house in Kansas City needs a 36" whole house fan or about 8,000 CFM takes a 1/4 HP fan…"
9 hours ago
Eric Kjelshus joined Diane Chojnowski's group

News & Announcements

Share your news and announcements with the community in this group.See More
9 hours ago
Eric Kjelshus replied to David Byrnes's discussion Insulation machine preferences
"If you find over heating look at voltage/amp draw very hard.    I find if you have…"
9 hours ago
Colin Genge posted events
12 hours ago
Adrienne DeAngelo posted an event

GreenPoint Rated CORE Training at Best Western Plus Marina Shores Hotel

October 15, 2015 to October 17, 2015
Increase your certifications or get to know the GreenPoint Rated system so that you can work more…See More
12 hours ago
Colin Genge replied to John Carton's discussion Smoke Puffer stick
"Retrotec Smoke Puffer is available for pickup from Energy Federation. They will not ship them due…"
12 hours ago

© 2015   Created by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service