Speaking at a 9 May stakeholder conference on cogeneration, Green MEP Claude Turmes called on the EU to make co-generation a cornerstone of its future energy policy and efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
A secret weapon against global warming?
Little is known about cogeneration by the general public, and the issue has received scant attention in official discussions on climate change. This is surprising, since cogeneration offers efficiency levels of 90% for combined heat and electricity generation, and the practice already accounted for 11% of electricity production in the EU in 1998. If this share rose to 18%, according to the Commission, “energy savings could represent around 3 to 4% of total gross consumption in the EU”.
The growth and visibility of the cogeneration market has been plagued by poor image issues. Since the technology has been on the market for decades, a common perception is that cogeneration is archaic, particularly when compared to newer technologies such as solar panels. In addition, the use of fossil fuels in cogenerators is seen as unattractive, and knowledge about efficiency and the potential uses of biomass is not widespread.
Cost and financing problems
Because of its relatively small market share, electricity produced by cogeneration remains more costly than electricity produced by nuclear power plants. Major banks and lending institutions, furthermore, have been reluctant to finance investments since most CHP facilities are quite small.
Access to grids blocked
A number of CHP facilities have encountered inhibitive fees and administrative hurdles in their efforts to access major power grids. The Commission reports that some CHP operators actually feel intimidated by large network operators, and have not filed complaints.