Cogeneration is the simultaneous production of electricity and heat, to create a useful end product. According to COGEN Europe “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 according to the heat demand of the application”. These systems can be a building, an industrial factory or a town/city served by district heat/cooling. By using the heat produced by cogeneration, a plant can be 90 per cent efficient – meaning “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 offers several benefits by optimizing energy supplies to all types of consumers. Some of the benefits include: increased efficiency of energy conversion, as well as use. It is the most efficient form of power generation. Cogeneration also happens to decrease emissions to the environment – specifically CO2 (the very worst of the greenhouse gasses). Although perhaps not the most well-known energy solution – cogeneration happens to be the best solution to targets set by the Kyoto Protocol. Another benefit that the general public can revel in: cogeneration systems offer a cheap alternative to traditional energy sources. While the economy tries to make its way back to normal, it makes sense to consider cogeneration.
Of course, cogeneration like other forms of alternative energy, require spokespeople to increase their profile. IRJ had the opportunity to speak with Cogen Nederland (a member of COGEN Europe) to learn why the organization is helping to increase the awareness of cogeneration and the potential for worldwide implementation of cogeneration plants and systems.
Kees den Blanken has been working with Cogen Nederland since 2003. The organization, like many others in its field promotes and stimulates the use of cogeneration in all types of applications., in all types of industries, including the chemical and food industries. Currently, cogeneration is used primarily in district heating application in Netherlands greenhouses.
Collectively, the Netherlands has 10,000 megawatts of cogeneration capacity – 4,000 in various industry applications, 2,000 in heating, 3,000 in greenhouses and 1,000 in other kinds of applications.
So why not implement cogeneration systems in more applications? den Blanken says that on a global scale, using cogeneration requires “better governmental regulation”. He adds that the priority now is to investigate use of sustainable energy and then get industrial CHP going again. “The use of CHP is growing rather successfully in the last four or five years – in greenhouses it’s increased from about 1000-3000 megawatts. On average, about 500 megawatts per year. We need to get industries working together to continue to increase the capacity for more cogeneration.”
Cogen Nederland is currently trying to make people aware of the potential of low carbon electricity generation, including corporations over all industries. “We study the capacities for cogeneration and see how they can be realized” den Blanken explains.
The effects of the economic downturn
When asked about the effects of the global recession on cogeneration promotion initiatives, den Blanken explains that “industrial CHP runs in energy-intensive industries - chemical, steel, food processing - and some of these industries are hurt by price and volume turn-downs by the financial crisis”. However, den Blanken also says that industries need to prepare for an upturn in the economy, and “if we swing up, the future will be better for us”. He reasons that companies need to “green” themselves as much as possible in order to prepare for a better economy.
The way to go, he adds, is all about attitudes. To get into a CHP situation “we need to get out of this current attitude”.
“It is strange how irrational the environmental and energy discussion goes. It is strange that the efficiency of the use of fossil fuels is so little promoted or little understood. It’s irrational to ignore. You would think that governments would strongly say "let’s use as much sustainable energy and be as efficient as possible’, but they haven’t."
If globally the goal is to reduce CO2 by thirty per cent by 2020, then according to den Blanken “we really have to accept the caps that are related to that”. He adds “if you accept the caps and take it seriously then you really have to maximize your sustainable energy usage”.
According to the organization, investment in CHP in industry will most likely get financial support in 2013 onward. In the current economic climate, no one’s really in the mood to make big investments when it comes to revamping existing processes, whether or not they are sustainable. In the meantime, organizations like Cogen Nederland and COGEN Europe are “informing members about what’s going on”. For Cogen Nederland, that means the small concentrated membership that controls 90 per cent of the Dutch CHP. For more information about Cogen Nederland, visit www.cogen.nl.
Other benefits (from COGEN Europe):
- An opportunity to move towards more decentralised forms of electricity generation, where plant is designed to meet the needs of local consumers, providing high efficiency, avoiding transmission losses and increasing flexibility in 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 that consumers are left without supplies of electricity and/or heating. In addition, the reduced fuel need which cogeneration provides reduces the import dependency – 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 liberalisation in energy markets
- Increased employment – a number of studies have now concluded that the development of CHP systems is a generator of jobs.