Shaping a climate neutral world consists of many building blocks. Cutting CO2 emissions, developing renewable energy coupled to increasing energy efficiency and circularity are some of them. It will also require breaking the barriers between disconnected energy systems to decarbonise households, transport and industry at a least cost. The challenge is to start today to make it happen before 2050.
European Union (EU) institutions currently debate increasing the EU’s greenhouse gases (GHG) reduction target to 50-55% by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels). Additional ambition requires a robust impact assessment comprising all solutions for all sectors. It will take boosting renewable energy and energy efficiency in a more decentralised and flexible system. This is key to meet higher targets while taking into account the different energy needs of different economic sectors. Cogeneration, the combined generation of heat and power, is uniquely placed to help deliver higher ambition.
Cogeneration already delivers significant CO2 reductions. Currently, cogeneration is more than 70% renewable and low carbon1. In the transition phase, cogeneration is the most efficient way of using natural gas and minimising its emissions. Stronger and more stable support is now needed to allow cogeneration delivering further CO2 cuts. Accelerating the uptake of renewable fuels such as hydrogen and bioenergy and using them efficiently in cogeneration will match increased emissions targets.
"Cogeneration is needed for more ambitious 2030 targets and
will integrate energy systems on our 2050 decarbonisation path."
Beyond helping reducing CO2 emissions, cogeneration delivers the fundamental dimensions Europe needs to become carbon neutral. EU legislation supports cogeneration for its benefits. However, these have been largely overlooked in the various European Green Deal communications released so far. Legal proposals are expected in June 2021. Better considering the below benefits delivered by cogeneration will be key to ensure that households, districts, public buildings and industry can reap the full value of investing in this sustainable and affordable solution.
Breaking the silos. Cogeneration integrates energy systems by optimally linking electricity, gas and heat networks and ensuring their most efficient use at local level. This avoids energy waste, fosters a more flexible energy system and provides energy where and when needed. By offsetting efficiency losses in transmission, distribution and generation, cogeneration becomes particularly important to cost-effectively integrate substantial amounts of renewable energy such as biogas or hydrogen within the economy.
Maximising energy and resource efficiency. Thanks to its high efficiency, cogeneration will enable industry, cities and citizens to make the most out the valuable fuels of the future like bioenergy and hydrogen. Not only will they save money, they will also use less of these primary energies for their heating, cooling and power needs and leave more of them available to decarbonise other sectors.
Enabling circular economy. Today, a vast amount of heat is being wasted, unused. In industry for example, this can be avoided by using cogeneration, for recovery on-site or re-use via district heating in nearby businesses and local communities. The latter enjoy affordable and secure heat supply and the heat supplier gets extra revenues for this service. This makes valuable heat last longer in the economy.
Supporting power grids. To successfully electrify the economy, electricity from dispatchable efficient solutions like cogeneration will be needed. Being local, these solutions will not only meet electricity demand at times of low wind and sun, they will also relieve pressure on electricity grids during peak demand and reduce needs for costly grid reinforcement.
1 27.3% comes from renewables and 45.6% from natural gas according to the latest EU statistics.