Businesses make more use of on-site power

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It’s some kind of coincidence to see reports of the size of the markets for on-site power generation in the UK and the US, in the same week at the end of last month.

Around 14% of UK energy needs are already met by the output of various types of on-site plant, according to the UK’s influential Confederation of British Industry. Businesses use on-site generation for cost management, sustainability and energy security reasons, says the CBI, adding that, given the right support from government, decentralized energy could rise by 130% by 2030. And, not quite comparing apples with apples, just more than half of US businesses say they generate at least some of their own power requirements on-site, according to a new survey of 600 businesses by Deloitte. This figure has risen from a third of US businesses two years ago.

The CBI goes on to bemoan the complexities – both for technologies and government support policies – of developing on-site projects in the UK, suggesting that the energy ministry should create a dedicated decentralized energy section to assist. Deloitte paints a more positive picture: that, particularly for larger companies, both energy management and the development of on-site generation capacity are becoming mainstream activities.

Also in that same week, three CHP schemes won US Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star CHP Awards in a clear demonstration of the benefits of using one of the oldest and most versatile on-site energy technologies. Awarded during the International District Energy Association’s annual conference in Boston, the three schemes demonstrate the particular advantages that CHP plants, operating alongside district energy schemes, deliver.

Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, installed its CHP system to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions by 2020; the system serves 56 buildings and is generating energy savings worth $138,000 a year. Meanwhile, Pepco Energy in Atlantic City uses the heat from electricity generation to provide space heating and cooling to buildings that also serves Atlantic City’s tourist district. Last, CHP is instrumental in efforts by Thermal Energy Corporation of Houston, Texas to reduce costs and emissions, and to ensure continuous heating and cooling to the Texas Medical Center, the world’s largest medical complex. TECO reports savings of $6–$12 million annually.

With operating efficiencies of around 70%–85%, these CHP schemes are impressive exemplars of one of the most established on-site generation technologies available to businesses on both sides of the Atlantic.

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