What is cogeneration?
Cogeneration (Combined Heat and Power or CHP) is the simultaneous production of electricity and heat, both of which are used. The central and most fundamental principle of cogeneration is that, in order to maximise the many benefits that arise from it, systems should be based on the heat demand of the application. This can be an individual building, an industrial factory or a town/city served by district heat/cooling. Through the utilisation of the heat, the efficiency of a cogeneration plant can reach 90% or more.
Cogeneration therefore offers energy savings ranging between 15-40% when compared against the supply of electricity and heat from conventional power stations and boilers.
Cogeneration optimises the energy supply to all types of consumers, with the following benefits for both users and society at large:
- Increased efficiency of energy conversion and use. Cogeneration is the most effective and efficient form of power generation.
- Lower emissions to the environment, in particular of CO2, the main greenhouse gas. Cogeneration is the single biggest solution to the Kyoto targets.
- Large cost savings, providing additional competitiveness for industrial and commercial users, and offering affordable heat for domestic users.
- An opportunity to move towards more decentralised forms of electricity generation, where plants are designed to meet the needs of local consumers, providing high efficiency, avoiding transmission losses and increasing flexibility of system use. This will particularly be the case if natural gas is the energy carrier.
- Improved local and general security of supply – local generation, through cogeneration, can reduce the risk of consumers being left without supplies of electricity and/or heating. In addition, the reduced need for fuel resulting from cogeneration reduces import dependency – helping to tackle a key challenge for Europe’s energy future.
- An opportunity to increase the diversity of generation plant, and provide competition in generation. Cogeneration provides one of the most important vehicles for promoting energy martket liberalisation.
- Increased employment – a number of studies have now concluded that the development of CHP systems is a generator of jobs.
The role of cogeneration in total electricity generation in Europe
The EU currently generates 11.2% of its electricity using cogeneration (Eurostat figures; 2011). However there are wide differences between member states, with varied shares of cogeneration ranging from 0% to 47.4%. According to official Eurostat figures from 2011, there is no cogeneration in Malta, and very little in Cyprus (0.9%) or Greece (4.5%). Latvia has the greatest share of cogeneration in total electricity generation (47.4%) followed by Denmark (46.2%). Significant potential exists in new EU member states, particularly for refurbishing district heating schemes and upgrading them to include modern cogeneration where previously only heat was distributed. This is universally the case where a large district heating infrastructure already exists.
For more information on the potential of cogeneration in Europe, visit www.code2-project.eu.