It’s not exactly news – international statistics take time to collate – but CHP contributed a slightly smaller proportion of the EU’s total electricity use in 2011, 11.2%, than it did in 2010 (11.7%). This, despite a tiny increase in total installed capacity, to 105 GW, suggesting that the overall capacity factor for CHP is slightly down too. It’s unlikely, given the poor investment climate, that CHP has made any great strides in the meantime.
The figures, released by Eurostat last month, demonstrate the ‘flatlining’ nature of CHP development in Europe over quite a few years now. They also illustrate the untapped opportunity to get more high-efficiency generation onto European power grids. But worse news could be on the way – COGEN Europe’s managing director Fiona Riddoch warned of the possible effects of electricity system reforms across Europe: ‘We must be wary of the near-term impacts of changes in the electricity sector on the performance of the CHP sector, particularly on the industrial sector where sizeable reinvestment decisions are coming up and hard-won efficiency gains could easily be eroded.’
The UK CHP Association is calling for industrial CHP operators to be exempted from a proposed carbon price support mechanism, the Carbon Price Floor. In Spain, a tenth of the CHP capacity was reported to be idle earlier this year, following raised taxes on all power generation plant, and reduced subsidies for CHP.
A recent report from Delta Energy & Environment suggests that the gloom extends to mainstream utility generation plant, with Vattenfall ‘mothballing’ a new CCGT plant in the Netherlands, a third of RWE’s power plants losing money and E.ON stranding a new CCGT plant in Bavaria, Germany. More positively, Delta tentatively suggests that the smarter utilities – facing falling energy sales and damaging growth in renewables – are planning to grow their on-site power services to counter the losses.
Germany, the biggest CHP market in Europe, is the key battleground. It accounts for a fifth of the cogenerated electricity in the EU-27. As part of its Energiewende reforms, a 2012 CHP Law introduced a binding target for CHP to reach a 25% share of total electricity by 2020, but progress so far has been sluggish.
One or two new plants are being opened, though. In the last month, WINGAS and E.ON have commissioned a CHP plant at Lubmin that generates 39 MW of electricity and 47 MW of heat – innovatively used to reheat gas in the Nord Stream pipeline. Meanwhile, chemicals company BASF started-up a new CHP plant at its Lampertheim manufacturing site in Hessen state.
But it’s going to take many more new plants like these to add up to significant growth in Europe’s industrial, and overall, CHP capacity.