Awards given by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month to four combined heat and power (CHP) systems are just the latest demonstration of strong federal support for the technology – for the moment.
While the EPA is a strong advocate of the greater use of CHP because ‘significant cost-effective emissions reductions can be achieved by increasing the efficiency of the nation’s electricity supply,’ there have been suggestions that the incoming Trump administration will be less keen to intervene in the energy industry for environmental protection purposes.
Obama’s Clean Power Plan and the nation's involvement with international efforts on climate change have both been threatened.
Operators of hospitals and university medical facilities in New York, Maryland and Massachusetts, together with the US Army National Guard’s Aviation Support Facility in Bangor, Maine, are enjoying the benefits of their new CHP schemes – and recognition as Energy Star CHP Award winners. Indeed, the EPA has been working with the CHP sector for 15 years now, assisting the development of over a thousand new systems with a cumulative generating capacity of nearly 8 GWe.
First established by the Nixon administration in 1970, the EPA likes the high efficiencies exhibited by CHP, leading to reduced use of fossil fuels and emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. In addition, the agency notes that CHP also consumes less water than conventional generation.
But it’s not just the guardians of the environment that want to support CHP from Washington, DC. The Department of Energy (DOE), through its Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, runs its own set of CHP Technical Assistance Partnerships (TAPs) to ‘promote and assist in transforming the market for CHP, waste heat-to-power and district energy technologies throughout the US.’ The seven TAPs offer technical assistance, market analyses and education events to CHP developers and customers. Meanwhile, the DOE’s CHP Installation Database is an enormous searchable, state-by-state listing of existing CHP schemes.
Administrators at the EPA and the DOE are clearly keen to see more CHP and other decentralized energy (DE) resources deployed in the US. Outgoing EPA Chief Gina McCarthy is proud of investment made in the clean energy sector, and the jobs it has created.
It will be interesting to see whether DE’s many other advantages to US users – lower energy costs and power grid losses – will allow federal support to continue.