New CHP directive is disappointing

The European Commission has launched its proposal for a directive for combined heat and power (CHP) systems – cogeneration. However, industry has expressed considerable disappointment in the document’s lack of ambition and in the Commission’s apparent misunderstandings about the technology.

The two organisations that represent the cogeneration industry in Europe, Euroheat & Power and COGEN Europe, claim that the draft directive shows several profound misunderstandings, not only about the technology itself, but also regarding its ecological benefits and the economic situation of the sector.

According to the two organisations, the new proposal will need thorough revision by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers in order for it to achieve the targets of creating a common understanding of the technology and recognition of its major benefits, and to encourage member states to remove barriers to CHP.

The main criticisms of the proposal are a recommendation for member states to focus public support on facilities with capacities below 50 MWe, which would exclude a significant proportion of the industry, of around 25-80% of facilities. The proposal is also criticised for its lack of targets, and for a “confusing and distorting” two-step approach to the definition of CHP, in which the technology is either ‘basic’ or ‘high efficiency’.

Nevertheless, the Commission appears to be optimistic about the prospects for CHP under its proposal. In 1998, cogeneration accounted for 11% of the European Union’s total energy production, but it’s potential is much greater, and would result in reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of around 65 million tonnes every year.

According to the Commission, the proposed directive would guarantee that electricity from CHP would be transmitted and distributed on the basis of non-discriminatory criteria; would facilitate access to the grid for electricity produced by CHP plants using renewable energy; and would ensure that guarantees of origin of electricity from cogeneration could be issued on request.

“We are determined to continue meeting the challenges of energy security of supply and climate change we set in the November 2000 Energy Green Paper,” said Vice President Loyola de Palacio, Commissioner for Energy and Transport. “This new proposal would help limit the growing external dependence for energy and harmful greenhouse gases emissions. It complements the Renewable Directive and our recent proposals on energy efficiency in buildings and biofuels, in setting up a new regulatory framework to encourage energy saving and the use of new energies.”

Last week, the European electricity union, Eurelectric, stated that as combined heat and power systems are by no means uniform, with benefits to the environment and cost savings varying considerably, there needs to be an agreed definition of what CHP is (see related story). The organisation called for a performance standard for the technology, with the best being termed ‘Quality CHP’.

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