Industry experts gauge the health of EU's decentralised energy

At yesterday’s Focus on Decentralised Energy in Europe virtual conference and event, sponsored by COSPP, industry experts and thought leaders discussed the key issues facing the decentralised energy sector across Europe.

Christoph Burger, faculty member and managing director at ESMT Customized Solutions, examined Germany’s decentralised energy revolution, covering the history and drivers of the country’s Energiewende, the implications for utilities and outlining the all-important emerging new business models. He made the point that decentralised energy is getting more prominent in Germany, saying,“Since 2008’s decentralised energy discussion (when it was not seriously considered), the main utilities are now interested.” He put this interest down to the impact of the Energiewende on the utilities’ conventional business model.  

“There is a lot of learning going on and a lot of opportunities for those companies (major utilities) once they have learned the lessons,” Burger said.

Simon Hobday, a partner at UK law firm Pinsent Masons, discussed the context surrounding district heating and CHP in the UK energy scene at the moment, before going on to talk about the types of schemes available and future possibilities.

In the UK CHP is not a regulated activity, he pointed out: there is no price control, no third party access regime, and no overarching customer care standards set by a central regulator. “It’s very much an economic free for all,” he said.

Because of the lack of regulated formal structure and the bottom-up nature of how the sector has developed in the UK, there are all sorts of different schemes and approaches, he added. While there is a renaissance in district heating in the UK at the moment, he said, it is still an immature market.

“Some models are getting more traction than others but it’s still early days,” he said.  “A number of institutions are looking at the models to work out how private sector funding to allow a much faster deployment of capital into these projects to drive forward penetration of growth in district heating.”

Steve Kilmartin, director, products and markets at E/One Utility System, warned that decentralising energy in Europe will have an effect on the grid, and will have a negative impact on large hydrogen-fueled generators. Traditionally these were baseload units, running at the same speed with the same load throughout generator use, but now they will be cycling, cooling and heating up, which creates a lot of stress on the generator.

Kilmartin discussed the benefits and safety issues of hydrogen as a generator coolant medium in the context of the new operating regime. He discussed the pros and cons for using hydrogen, methods used to measure gas purity and dew point, and important points for accident prevention. 

In using hydrogen as a cooling medium, three things are of paramount importance: purity monitoring, purging the generators, and above all safety, as hydrogen is explosive when mixed with air. In his presentation, Kilmartin discussed the important steps needed to use hydrogen safely as a cooling medium.

Next, Steve Zilonis, chair of the World Alliance for Decentralized Energy (WADE), focused on the opportunities for decentralised energy that are emerging in the US, in particular for decentralised natural gas CHP. He then discussed parallels between the US and European market.

Finally, Keith Boye, vice president of sales and marketing at Precision Iceblast Corporation, discussed the increased heat transfer, efficiency and decreased carbon emissions that can be achieved by effective heat recovery steam generator (HRSG) maintenance (cleaning) and overhaul.

A lively Q&A session with questions from the over 500 registered participants ended each presentation.   





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