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  4. IEA highlights ‘crucial’ role of CHP in delivering renewables revolution

IEA highlights ‘crucial’ role of CHP in delivering renewables revolution

17 May 2011

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) offers the “best of both worlds”: a proven efficiency technology that accelerates the integration of renewable energy, according to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The report, Co-generation and Renewables: solutions for a low-carbon energy future, observes that ‘co-generation’ (CHP) is attractive to both policy-makers and private users and investors because it delivers a range of energy, environmental and economic benefits, including:

  1. Dramatically increased energy efficiency;
  2. Reduced CO2 emissions and other pollutants - even more so when the synergies with renewables are factored in;
  3. Increased energy security through reduced dependence on imported fuel;
  4. Cost savings for the energy consumer; and
  5. Beneficial use of local energy resources (particularly through the use of waste, biomass and geothermal resources in district heating and cooling systems), providing a transition to a low-carbon future.

In addition to the local benefits of reduced energy bills and carbon emissions, the report highlights to potential for CHP to support the deployment of intermittent renewable energy resources such as wind.

CHP can, in the first instance, be used to improve the efficiency of gas power stations that typically provide backup electricity generation. The graph below taken from the report shows that CHP efficiency can be almost double that of conventional backup power.

Combining CHP plants with thermal storage (large, insulated hot-water vessels), also allows them to perform a balancing function for intermittent forms renewable energy. CHP plant can be operated on a flexible basis to generate electricity as required, while thermal storage allows for the heat demand from homes and businesses to be disconnected from their supply. The use of thermal storage in this way can significantly reduces the cost of and stress on the transmission network by countering the ‘peaky’ nature of renewable generation. As the report cites,

“storing heat is simple but storing electricity is still difficult and expensive”.

However, the report notes that under current financial frameworks, operators are unlikely to invest the up-front capital required for developing CHP in this manner. Greater certainty that the financial and carbon savings created will be recognised by the market is required before organisations will be willing to participate in the unpredictable business of balancing renewable energy generation. The UK’s Electricity Market Reform process provides the ideal opportunity to supply this to CHP operators.

Commenting on the release, CHPA Director Graham Meeks said:

“This important report demonstrates that those countries that have adopted CHP as part of an integrated energy system are often at the head of the pack in decarbonising their energy supplies. The UK would do well to heed the advice of the IEA as we embark on a new phase of investment in our own energy infrastructure.”

“The IEA report underlines the growing value of CHP in tackling the challenge of delivering secure, low-carbon energy at the least cost to the consumer. The flexibility and efficiency provided by CHP will be increasingly in demand as energy systems incorporate more and more intermittent renewables whilst making more effective use of scarce bioenergy and carbon-emitting fossil fuels.”


For further information or to request an interview, please contact:
Graham Meeks
T 020 7828 4077
M 07802 242498



Notes to Editors:

1. Click here to read the IEA’s press release and to download the Co-generation and Renewables: solutions for a low-carbon energy future report.

2. More background on the Government’s vision in transforming the energy sector can be found here, in the transcript of Greg Gregory Barker’s key note address to Integrated Energy 2010 as Minister of State for Energy and Climate in November 2010. Similar messaging is also available on the DECC website here and here.

3. The CHPA’s response to the Government consultation on Electricity Market Reform can be found here.

4. On 16 May 2011, the Energy and Climate Change Committee published the results of their inquiry into the EMR process. The report, which draws on evidence submitted by the CHPA, can be found here.


About CHP
Combined heat and power (CHP), integrates the production of usable heat and power (electricity), in one single, highly efficient process. Delivering a minimum of 10% energy savings, it makes the very best use of renewable and fossil fuels. This efficiency means less stress on precious fuel resources and lower carbon emissions.

CHP works by recovering heat from the power generation process and putting it to work in industry, buildings and homes, often delivering significant cost and CO2 savings. CHP currently provides 7% of UK electricity and in 2009 provided emissions savings of 14 million tonnes of CO2.


About the CHPA
The Combined Heat and Power Association (CHPA) is the leading advocate of an integrated approach to delivering energy services using combined heat and power and district heating. The Association has over 100 members active across a range of technologies and markets and is widely recognised as one of the leading industry bodies in the sustainable energy sector.