US Energy Department promotes cogeneration systems

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has launched a scheme which it hopes will lead to a doubling of the use of combined heat and power systems in commercial, industrial and institutional buildings and in communities throughout the US by 2010.

The DoE hopes “The Combined Heat and Power Challenge” will produce 46 gigawatts of electricity, equivalent to the energy produced by 50 large power plants.

So-called cogeneration systems generate electricity and heat simultaneously at the point of use. Such systems can utilise much of the energy normally lost in separate power generation for a wide variety of thermal needs, including water, steam, and process heating or cooling.

Combined heat and power has been shown to generate system efficiencies greater than 70 percent as compared to central generating plants that operate at a US national average of 33 percent efficiency. Generating electricity on-site can avoid transmission and distribution losses and potentially the need to expand the electricity transmission grid.

“A primary goal of the Challenge is to eliminate barriers that prevent more widespread adoption of combined heat and power technologies and systems,” said Dan Reicher, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The DoE hopes that increasing privatisation of energy generation will increase demand for combined heat and power. Energy produced in this way may be sold to energy marketers, utilities or transmission and distribution companies, to be sold at a profit.

However, full deployment of cogeneration technology in business and industry has been hampered by the stiff “exit” fees facing those who stop purchasing electricity from their traditional suppliers.

The Department of Energy is planning a series of combined heat and power seminars and regional workshops, in coordination with the recently formed U.S. Combined Heat and Power Association.

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