Time is ripe to harness CHP's energy savings potential
New figures released by Eurostat for the year 2011 reinforce the strong contribution made by combined heat and power (CHP) to the EU's energy supply – Europe's CHP capacity has fractionally increased. But a slight decrease in utilisation serves as a warning of how changes in the electricity sector can undermine efficiency gains.
The 2013 Statistical Pocketbook ‘EU Energy in Figures’, published by Eurostat in October 2013, tracks the main energy market developments between 2010 and 2011, a year again marked by a difficult economic context.
As for the CHP sector's contribution to the EU power market, the Pocketbook revealed that 11.2% of the electricity came from cogeneration in 2011 – down slightly on the 2010 figure of 11.7%. The data also showed an increase of 0.4% in cumulative installed capacity to 105.3 GWe (against an additional potential of 120 GWe across Europe).
Using the ‘Capacity Factor’ methodology featured in the Pocketbook leads to acknowledging a decrease in the utilisation rate of CHP assets from 43% to 41% between 2010 and 2011. While the Pocketbook neither provides qualitative information on the way CHP plants have been running (improved flexibility to accommodate the uptake of intermittent RES-E), nor on the climatic conditions that affect heat lead plants, there is a real concern about the growing impact of low utilisation rates on investment and reinvestment in the CHP sector.
Commenting on the 2011 figures, COGEN Europe Managing Director Fiona Riddoch said: “the Eurostat data show the CHP sector remains an untapped opportunity for energy efficiency gains. We must be wary of the near-term impacts of changes in the electricity sector on the performance of the combined heat and power sector, particularly on the industrial sector where sizeable reinvestment decisions are coming up and hard won efficiency gains could easily be eroded”.
 ECN Policy Studies, Final Report Background study for Energy Supply Side Efficiency Framework http://ec.europa.eu/energy/evaluations/doc/2011_energy_efficiency_service_and_supply_final_report.pdf