Is micro-CHP technology really taking root in the UK at last? Not yet; progress to date has been disappointing for a technology which has been talked-up for at least a decade now. But the last couple of weeks have seen a couple of announcements that suggest change is in the air. Probably most significant is the entry onto the market of the ‘electricity-generating boiler’ from Flow Energy, which can generate 1 kW of electricity and up 18 kW of heat. Ten years in development, the unit is designed and manufactured in the UK . Crucially, the company has launched the unit with a range of payment options, including a ‘pays for itself’ deal in which customers finance the up-front cost through a five-year loan agreement. Flow Energy is also an energy supplier, and says its micro-CHP customers can also benefit from reduced energy payments by switching their energy supply contracts to Flow and assigning electricity feed-in tariff payments to the company for five years. After then, the cost of the unit is paid for and customers continue to benefit from the unit’s A-rated efficiency. While no-capital financing for CHP units is nothing new in the UK and Europe, its adoption in the domestic sector is novel; time will tell how well it works. However, the lesson from commercial sector CHP customers is that no-capital deals have been immensely important in getting the technology into, particularly public sector, applications for many years. Or how about a micro-CHP unit based on fuel cell technology ? Manufacturer Viessmann has installed in the UK the first of what it calls the first mass-produced domestic fuel micro-CHP system, albeit in the home of the company’s technical director. Combining proven PEM fuel cell technology from Panasonic with Viessmann’s heating know-how, and already on sale in Germany, the unit produces 0.75 kW of electricity and up to 19 kW of thermal energy. Both Flow Energy and Viessmann naturally point to significant energy cost and net carbon emission savings for householders. Flow suggests that six million homes could benefit from its technology, so there’s much to play for. Traditionally dominated by individual gas-fired (heat only) boilers, Britain has waited a long time for micro-CHP to gain some traction – government statistics suggest that only a few hundred units have been installed to date. Perhaps the financial and technical innovation offered by these two manufacturers will make the difference.
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