A surprising solution to our energy needs

Posted by tracy - 19 June 2008 at 10:43am - Comments

Conoco Phillips industrial CHP

No one will be surprised that Greenpeace is against the construction of new nuclear power stations, but what some may find unusual is one of the solutions we are proposing to meet our energy needs and reduce our CO2 emissions - industrial CHP, or combined heat and power.

Around Britain, industrial sites are using vast quantities of fuel to generate heat for processes such as oil refining and chemical manufacture, which produces high levels of CO2. We need to ultimately decarbonise our transport system and move away from oil, and facilities such as oil refineries will become redundant. But right now we urgently need to tackle climate change and these sites currently present an economical opportunity to provide new bulk electricity generation whilst cutting fuel and CO2 emissions.

Combined heat and power is the most efficient use of fuel for combustion making use of the unused heat from thermal electricity generation. Currently power stations in the UK waste on average almost two thirds of the energy they generate and therefore two thirds of the fuel they consume. In fact, 20 per cent of all of the UK's CO2 emissions come from the fuel burnt in creating this wasted heat. That means a fifth of our nation's emissions come from something that has no useful purpose.

By using more of the energy in the fuel, CHP can double the useful output from the power station this increasing efficiency and lowering emissions and decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels.

All sounds a bit dweeby so far? Well, not if you consider that 49 per cent of the UK's energy needs are in the form of heat. And we're currently wasting a lot of it.

Almost all of the government's focus has been on electricity generation which accounts for only 17 per cent of our final energy demand. The government has no heat strategy for the UK and is focusing its attention on nuclear power which can only provide electricity.

A new report released by world leading energy experts Pöyry Energy Consulting shows there is an untapped potential sufficient to generate an estimated 14GW of electricity by siting combined heat and power plants at existing industrial sites - that's equivalent to the annual needs of two thirds of UK households.

In a few industrialised sites in the UK, there is enoromous localised heat useage, but only a limited use of CHP. Yet it is relatively easy to develop the infrastructure for combined heat and power.

map of recommended CHP locations
Click on the map to download the sites as a pdf

Pöyry has identified nine specific industrial sites around the country where CHP plants could be installed to meet the local industry's heat and power demands and also supply electricity back to the national grid. These nine sites could provide 13GW of the 14GW potential electricity generation capacity.

 

Sounds like a good deal? It gets better. Based on the ConocoPhillips CHP development at Immingham, industrial CHP is quicker and cheaper to build than nuclear power stations. The Immingham plant supplies two refineries in Humberside with heat, steam and power. It is currently being expanded and when this expansion is complete it will reach the same electricity generating capacity as the UK's flagship nuclear power station, Sizewell B. Reports suggest that the total cost of the Immingham development has been around £560 million.

Current estimates put the cost of a single new nuclear power plant significantly higher than CHP capital, between £2.87 and £6 billion, and that doesn't included the cost of managing and storing waste.

According to Pöyry, the CO2 saving from fully developing 14GW of CHP (compared to the current system of delivering heat and power separately) is between 10 and 26 million tonnes of CO2 annually - that's as much as 4.6 per cent of the UK's CO2 emission.

For as long as the UK continues to use fossil fuels, we should be using them as efficiently as possible to minimise CO2 emissions. Matching industrial heat users with large scale gas-fired CHP achieves that goal on a grand scale and could play a major role in replacing our current electricity system. It would reduce UK fuel consumption and help insulate against fuel price increases and supply concerns. Most crucially of all, industrial CHP will reduce CO2 emissions while providing a solid stepping stone towards a more decentralised and increasingly renewable energy system.

You can read a summary of the report here or if you really want to delve deep into the details you can read the full report by Pöyry.

You can also learn more about combined heat and power and how this could work within a decentralised energy system across the country by visiting our climate friendly town - EfficienCity.

You article makes no mention of the serious constraint posed by the second law of thermodynamics. To go from low grade energy (heat) to high grade (electricity)means that large amounts of energy must be discarded. A modern power station can extract about 37% of the heat energy by discarding heat in cooling towers at about blood temperature. This water temperature is little use to anyone. To get useful heating you have to keep the exit temperature much higher say about 80C but this greatly reduces the amount of electricity generated to the upper 20s percent. This means each megawatt hour of electricity from a CHP has a carbon footprint 35% higher than from the best thermal stations. You can then use the heat by putting it through radiators etc but it will still be returned at temperatures around 40C so you have gained very much less than your rosy view suggests. There are also control problems. If no one wants the heat on a hot day you have very expensive electricity. Conversely if lots of heat is required you will be producing electricity willy-nilly and some more efficient power station will have to be throttled back or shut down. Even greenpeace cant get something for nothing!

For a large cut in emissions there is a lot to be said for nuclear. France is 80% nuclear and has much the lowest carbon footprint per citizen of any EU country

On the plus side, this makes a great deal more sense than putting CHP next to people’s homes. The air pollution is less of an issue, and the demand for heat at industrial sites will be more consistent through the year.

It saves on CO2 compared to conventional gas powerstations. However it still produces twenty times as much CO2 as nuclear.

But what’s this?: “Most crucially of all, industrial CHP will reduce CO2 emissions while providing a solid stepping stone towards a more decentralised and increasingly renewable energy system.” What does that actually mean? Judging from the size of the nine sites, these are as big as conventional powerstations, so they are not decentralised any more than the current grid is. And they burn natural gas, so they are not renewable.

It’s good that Greenpeace is beginning to acknowledge that renewables on their own can’t produce the CO2 savings we need in the necessary timescale. But opting for burning more natural gas is a fairly lame alternative. Natural gas is a potent greenhouse gas – more than twenty times worse than CO2. If >2% of the gas leaks (which is quite possible on its way from Russia) then it is as bad as burning coal.

Hi ColinG

I found this - perhaps this will help explain decentralised CHP?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klooRS-Jjyo

Decentralised and in Holland running on biomass with a 95% efficiency

;0)

Enrico, my point is that decentralised CHP increases air pollution. The whole reason why this large-scale industrial CHP is a better idea is because it not decentralised, and it is confined to industrial areas where the pollution is not so critical. Putting mini gas powerstations next to people’s homes is a bad idea. We should be phasing out gas, not encouraging it.

It’s easy to say “use biomass instead of gas”, but this is not practical on a large scale. It would not be possible to grow enough biomass in the UK. Furthermore, other than CO2, biomass produces a lot more air pollution than gas and is more deadly especially in an urban environment.

Biomass is not a safe source of energy. Every TWh of electricity generated from biomass causes about 12 premature deaths. For comparison, gas causes 5 deaths. Truly clean forms of energy such as wind, hydro and, yes, nuclear, cause less than 1 death per TWh.
http://manhaz.cyf.gov.pl/manhaz/strona_konferencja_EAE-2001/15%20-%20Pol...

Colin, please remember to factor in the crucial point that CHP is operating at a level of efficiency around two and a half times greater than conventional centralised power stations (be they coal, gas or nuke powered). So what ever fuel they burn, they'll be burning far less of it to produce the same amount of power.

Running on gas long-term would not be ideal, but new CHP plants would be dual-fuel, able to run on both gas and biomass (when available, and much more will become available over time). Once you add the facts that these plants can be built in half the time and for one third of the cost of new nuclear, and their advantages become clear.

Remember, this is an interim solution. In the long-term, wave power, tidal and geothermal are likely to be playing a much bigger part (plus wind and solar, of course), and we'll have learned to be a lot less profilgate with our energy consumption in the first place. Sure gas is not a long-term solution, but in the interim using it in CHP will allow us to meet out 2020 CO2 reduction targets - which nuclear cannot (both because of the build time for new plant and the fact that it will only produce electricity not usable heat, which is a far greater part of our overall energy needs).

Finally, remember that the gas used in new CHP plants would be burned anyway - at least this way we use less of it, and that far more efficiently, and start getting on track for the reduced carbon future which we need to embrace.

Joss, the efficiency gain from CHP in real terms is only around 10%. I commend prof David Mackay’s book “Without Hot Air”. Chapter 25 deals with heating and the various problems surrounding CHP.

http://www.withouthotair.com/

He says:
There’s certainly some truth in the view that Britain is rather backward when it comes to district heating and combined heat and power, but discussion is hampered by a general lack of numbers, and by two particular errors. First, when comparing different ways of using fuel, the wrong measure of ‘efficiency’ is used, namely one that weights electricity as having exactly equal value to heat. Second, it’s widely assumed that the ‘waste’ heat in a traditional power station could be captured without impairing the power station’s electricity production. This sadly is not true, as the numbers will show. Delivering useful heat to a customer always reduces the electricity produced to some degree. And given that electricity actually has a higher value than heat, the true gains from combined heat and power are often much smaller than the hype would lead you to believe. (Just 10% or so.)

This echoes what Pete_the_hammer said at the start of this thread. It is necessary to make CHP powerstations less efficient at producing electricity if they are also producing heat at a useful level.

Prof Mackay favors using centrally generated electricity to run local heat pumps for domestic heating. It is cleaner and more efficient, and ultimately doesn’t depend on burning anything. You can use wind or wave or nuclear or any other alternative to provide the electricity.

Suggesting biomass would be used in place of gas is absurd. It is not feasible to produce enough biomass to make a significant impact on our energy generation; and if we did the pollution levels would be horrendous; not to mention the land-use.

Even as an “interim solution” CHP is a bad choice for a large-scale roll-out. It produces more CO2 than equivalent nuclear/wind/hydro stations (with or without heat pumps). It causes far more pollution which will cause more ill health and death. It relies on fossil fuel which is increasingly expensive. And it ties us in to using fossil fuel for longer than we need to.

Suggesting that it is cheaper is also misleading. It is true that the cost of the plant is less than a nuclear powerstation (or wind farm); but the actual cost of electricity is not significantly better and in many cases worse.

The International Energy Agency has calculated figures for comparing different methods of generation including CHP. Nuclear is the cheapest in many cases.
http://www.iea.org/textbase/nppdf/free/2005/ElecCost.pdf

The idea that the “gas would be burned anyway” is irrelevant and an astonishing statement to make. If you insist on burning gas, do it at a centralized powerstation with carbon-capture; then use the electricity to run heat pumps if you want domestic heat. This would produce much less CO2 than decentralized CHP powerstations could. But ideally, don’t burn the gas. Use clean renewables and nuclear where possible.

... and explain to me why they don't know what they are talking about and you obviously do, please.

Securing Power is a recent report by world leading energy experts Pöyry Energy Consulting and provides a compelling piece of the answer to the energy security and CO2 emissions challenges that the UK faces today. Pöyry’s ground breaking analysis shows there is an unprecedented opportunity for very large scale combined heat and power (CHP) plants to provide both heat and electricity from the same fuel, allowing us to cut emissions, reduce fuel use, cut costs and provide up to 16GW of new electricity generating capacity to meet UK demand over the coming years.

Heat accounts for 49% of the UK’s energy needs but has been the continuous missing element of the UK energy policy. Almost all of the focus has been on electricity provision which accounts for just 17% of our final energy demand. But heat is crucial in terms of fuel dependency. Whether for domestic central heating or in industrial applications, heat accounts for around 70% of all UK natural gas consumption, imported or otherwise. Discussing energy security, in particular the security of gas supplies, without discussing heat completely misses the heart of the issue.

Despite this, there is currently no heat strategy in the UK.

While focusing enormous resources on nuclear power, which does little to relieve gas consumption and provide heat, the government’s 2007 Energy White Paper had only 4 out of 342 pages on heat.

In the UK today, power stations waste on average almost two thirds of the energy they generate and therefore two thirds of the fuel they consume. In fact, 20% of all the UK’s CO2 emissions come from the fuel burnt in creating this wasted heat, which means a fifth of our national CO2 emissions come from something that serves no useful purpose to us at all.

CHP offers the most efficient use of fuel for combustion, making use of the unused heat from thermal electricity generation. If power stations are built and located close to industries so that this heat can be captured rather than dumped into cooling towers or nearby waterways, it can be piped as high pressure steam or hot water into industrial processes or buildings. By using more of the energy in the fuel, CHP can more than double the useful output from the power station. In this way, CHP deals simultaneously with the challenge of providing heat, lowering emissions and increasing efficiency whilst decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels.

Cutting out waste by using CHP starts to tackle the core of our energy challenges – reducing fuel use, especially natural gas, insulating us against fuel price rises and cutting CO2 emissions. In Scandinavia and the Netherlands, CHP is widely used and is achieving all of these goals. In fact Denmark and the Netherlands now get over 40% of their power from CHP. However, in the UK CHP has not, to date, received much attention in policy terms, especially compared with nuclear power and new coal fired power plants.

The greater and denser the heat demand, the more practical and economic it is to supply heat from CHP. In the UK, the densest and most consistent heat demand is in the industrial sector. In a few heavily industrialised sites nationwide there is enormous localised heat usage but, to date, only limited use of CHP. An industrial setting makes it relatively easy to develop the infrastructure for CHP. It is easier, cheaper and quicker to deliver because heat is transported over shorter distances and there are fewer users.

Rethinking where and how to site power stations is crucial todelivering a more secure and low carbon energy system.

Pöyry has identified nine specific industrial sites (see map) around the country where CHP could be installed to meet local industry’s heat and power demand and also supply additional electricity to the National Grid. Installing CHP at these nine industrial sites could provide over 13GW of the 14GW potential electricity generation capacity.

The 14GW of electricity generating capacity from CHP identified in Securing Power far outstrips the 10GW that the government’s nuclear new build programme aspires to install by around 2030.

Whilst CHP plants would provide heat at the same time, nuclear power plants rely on cooling systems to dump the heat they generate and so provide only electricity as a useful output.

The new coal plant proposed at Kingsnorth in Kent is 1.6GW incapacity. Industry reports suggest that another seven3 of the same type of coal plants could follow if the government decides to continue to support new coal. These plants could total 10.6GW of capacity and would, at best, achieve around 45% efficiency. So, like nuclear plants, new coal plants would contribute only a fraction of the total energy that could be provided by the CHP plants described in this report and CHP could even produce more electricity.

Based on the ConocoPhillips CHP development at Immingham, industrial CHP is quicker and cheaper to build than nuclear power stations. The Immingham plant supplies two refineries in Humberside with heat, steam and power. It is currently being expanded (although the report shows potential for even greater expansion) and when this expansion is complete it will reach the same electricity generating capacity as the UK’s flagship nuclear power station, Sizewell B. Reports suggest that the total cost of the Immingham development has been around £560 million.

Current estimates put the cost of a single new nuclear power plant significantly higher than CHP capital, between £2.87 and £6.8 billion, not including the cost of managing and storing waste. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) recently increased its estimated cost of dealing with the nuclear waste in the UK from £73 billion9, predicting that the total will be billions more10 up to double the previous estimate.

According to Pöyry, the CO2 saving from fully developing 14GW of CHP, compared to the current system of delivering heat and power separately, is between 10 and 26 million tonnes of CO2 annually, depending on whether you assume that the electricity is replacing solely gas fired power stations or a mixture of coal and gas. At 26 million tonnes of CO2, the saving would be 4.6% of UK CO2 emissions.

Pöyry's conclusion: industrial CHP will reduce CO2 emissions while providing a solid stepping stone towards a more decentralised and increasingly renewable energy system in a way that nuclear cannot.

Joss, I am not arguing that Pöyry’s report is wrong. In fact in my original post above I said it was “almost a good idea”. If you insist on burning gas (which Greenpeace increasingly does) then this is an efficient way to do it.

What I do take issue with however is the polemic tacked onto the end of the report: “Most crucially of all, industrial CHP will reduce CO2 emissions while providing a solid stepping stone towards a more decentralised and increasingly renewable energy system”

This is a complete non-sequitur. The industrial CHP solution is not decentralised and it is not renewable. In fact the best things about it - the scale of the powerstations and the fact that they produce waste heat in large quantities - are dependent upon the fact that these CHP stations are not decentralised and not renewable. They are big fossil-fuel powerstations.

They are more efficient than conventional gas powerstations, but they still generate over ten times as much CO2 per unit of energy compared to nuclear, or wind, or hydro.

The report does not demonstrate that decentralised (i.e. small/community sized) energy is a good idea - in fact the opposite. A few big CHP stations makes more sense than lots of tiny ones. It does not propose CHP as a general purpose domestic solution (i.e. for homes), although Greenpeace likes to imply that it is.

Finally, the point that I have made many times before is that this, or any proposal, will deliver more carbon savings if it is combined with some nuclear power. Nuclear power does not preclude the use of gas-fired industrial CHP; nor large-scale wind farms. A mix of solutions is needed, and your insistence on excluding nuclear from the mix means fewer carbon savings and greater cost.

As the IEA report I cited above shows, nuclear power is a cheaper source of energy, even using existing plants. That is, based on actual figures from real powerstations (nuclear, CHP, and the rest).

You say that your opposition to nuclear power is not ideological, but your lack of convincing argument suggests otherwise. Practically, nuclear is a good solution. The IEA report shows it is cheap in real terms. The safety record compared to other forms of generation, including renewables, shows that it is safe. Certainly safer in real terms (lives lost per TWh) than the waste (pollution) from gas or biomass used in CHP.

"In fact, 20 per cent of all of the UK's CO2 emissions come from the fuel burnt in creating this wasted heat." - I find this staggering when it could be heating our homes.
--

You article makes no mention of the serious constraint posed by the second law of thermodynamics. To go from low grade energy (heat) to high grade (electricity)means that large amounts of energy must be discarded. A modern power station can extract about 37% of the heat energy by discarding heat in cooling towers at about blood temperature. This water temperature is little use to anyone. To get useful heating you have to keep the exit temperature much higher say about 80C but this greatly reduces the amount of electricity generated to the upper 20s percent. This means each megawatt hour of electricity from a CHP has a carbon footprint 35% higher than from the best thermal stations. You can then use the heat by putting it through radiators etc but it will still be returned at temperatures around 40C so you have gained very much less than your rosy view suggests. There are also control problems. If no one wants the heat on a hot day you have very expensive electricity. Conversely if lots of heat is required you will be producing electricity willy-nilly and some more efficient power station will have to be throttled back or shut down. Even greenpeace cant get something for nothing! For a large cut in emissions there is a lot to be said for nuclear. France is 80% nuclear and has much the lowest carbon footprint per citizen of any EU country

On the plus side, this makes a great deal more sense than putting CHP next to people’s homes. The air pollution is less of an issue, and the demand for heat at industrial sites will be more consistent through the year. It saves on CO2 compared to conventional gas powerstations. However it still produces twenty times as much CO2 as nuclear. But what’s this?: “Most crucially of all, industrial CHP will reduce CO2 emissions while providing a solid stepping stone towards a more decentralised and increasingly renewable energy system.” What does that actually mean? Judging from the size of the nine sites, these are as big as conventional powerstations, so they are not decentralised any more than the current grid is. And they burn natural gas, so they are not renewable. It’s good that Greenpeace is beginning to acknowledge that renewables on their own can’t produce the CO2 savings we need in the necessary timescale. But opting for burning more natural gas is a fairly lame alternative. Natural gas is a potent greenhouse gas – more than twenty times worse than CO2. If >2% of the gas leaks (which is quite possible on its way from Russia) then it is as bad as burning coal.

Hi ColinG I found this - perhaps this will help explain decentralised CHP? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klooRS-Jjyo Decentralised and in Holland running on biomass with a 95% efficiency ;0)

Enrico, my point is that decentralised CHP increases air pollution. The whole reason why this large-scale industrial CHP is a better idea is because it not decentralised, and it is confined to industrial areas where the pollution is not so critical. Putting mini gas powerstations next to people’s homes is a bad idea. We should be phasing out gas, not encouraging it. It’s easy to say “use biomass instead of gas”, but this is not practical on a large scale. It would not be possible to grow enough biomass in the UK. Furthermore, other than CO2, biomass produces a lot more air pollution than gas and is more deadly especially in an urban environment. Biomass is not a safe source of energy. Every TWh of electricity generated from biomass causes about 12 premature deaths. For comparison, gas causes 5 deaths. Truly clean forms of energy such as wind, hydro and, yes, nuclear, cause less than 1 death per TWh. http://manhaz.cyf.gov.pl/manhaz/strona_konferencja_EAE-2001/15%20-%20Pol...

Colin, please remember to factor in the crucial point that CHP is operating at a level of efficiency around two and a half times greater than conventional centralised power stations (be they coal, gas or nuke powered). So what ever fuel they burn, they'll be burning far less of it to produce the same amount of power. Running on gas long-term would not be ideal, but new CHP plants would be dual-fuel, able to run on both gas and biomass (when available, and much more will become available over time). Once you add the facts that these plants can be built in half the time and for one third of the cost of new nuclear, and their advantages become clear. Remember, this is an interim solution. In the long-term, wave power, tidal and geothermal are likely to be playing a much bigger part (plus wind and solar, of course), and we'll have learned to be a lot less profilgate with our energy consumption in the first place. Sure gas is not a long-term solution, but in the interim using it in CHP will allow us to meet out 2020 CO2 reduction targets - which nuclear cannot (both because of the build time for new plant and the fact that it will only produce electricity not usable heat, which is a far greater part of our overall energy needs). Finally, remember that the gas used in new CHP plants would be burned anyway - at least this way we use less of it, and that far more efficiently, and start getting on track for the reduced carbon future which we need to embrace.

Joss, the efficiency gain from CHP in real terms is only around 10%. I commend prof David Mackay’s book “Without Hot Air”. Chapter 25 deals with heating and the various problems surrounding CHP. http://www.withouthotair.com/ He says: “There’s certainly some truth in the view that Britain is rather backward when it comes to district heating and combined heat and power, but discussion is hampered by a general lack of numbers, and by two particular errors. First, when comparing different ways of using fuel, the wrong measure of ‘efficiency’ is used, namely one that weights electricity as having exactly equal value to heat. Second, it’s widely assumed that the ‘waste’ heat in a traditional power station could be captured without impairing the power station’s electricity production. This sadly is not true, as the numbers will show. Delivering useful heat to a customer always reduces the electricity produced to some degree. And given that electricity actually has a higher value than heat, the true gains from combined heat and power are often much smaller than the hype would lead you to believe. (Just 10% or so.)” This echoes what Pete_the_hammer said at the start of this thread. It is necessary to make CHP powerstations less efficient at producing electricity if they are also producing heat at a useful level. Prof Mackay favors using centrally generated electricity to run local heat pumps for domestic heating. It is cleaner and more efficient, and ultimately doesn’t depend on burning anything. You can use wind or wave or nuclear or any other alternative to provide the electricity. Suggesting biomass would be used in place of gas is absurd. It is not feasible to produce enough biomass to make a significant impact on our energy generation; and if we did the pollution levels would be horrendous; not to mention the land-use. Even as an “interim solution” CHP is a bad choice for a large-scale roll-out. It produces more CO2 than equivalent nuclear/wind/hydro stations (with or without heat pumps). It causes far more pollution which will cause more ill health and death. It relies on fossil fuel which is increasingly expensive. And it ties us in to using fossil fuel for longer than we need to. Suggesting that it is cheaper is also misleading. It is true that the cost of the plant is less than a nuclear powerstation (or wind farm); but the actual cost of electricity is not significantly better and in many cases worse. The International Energy Agency has calculated figures for comparing different methods of generation including CHP. Nuclear is the cheapest in many cases. http://www.iea.org/textbase/nppdf/free/2005/ElecCost.pdf The idea that the “gas would be burned anyway” is irrelevant and an astonishing statement to make. If you insist on burning gas, do it at a centralized powerstation with carbon-capture; then use the electricity to run heat pumps if you want domestic heat. This would produce much less CO2 than decentralized CHP powerstations could. But ideally, don’t burn the gas. Use clean renewables and nuclear where possible.

... and explain to me why they don't know what they are talking about and you obviously do, please.

Securing Power is a recent report by world leading energy experts Pöyry Energy Consulting and provides a compelling piece of the answer to the energy security and CO2 emissions challenges that the UK faces today. Pöyry’s ground breaking analysis shows there is an unprecedented opportunity for very large scale combined heat and power (CHP) plants to provide both heat and electricity from the same fuel, allowing us to cut emissions, reduce fuel use, cut costs and provide up to 16GW of new electricity generating capacity to meet UK demand over the coming years.

Heat accounts for 49% of the UK’s energy needs but has been the continuous missing element of the UK energy policy. Almost all of the focus has been on electricity provision which accounts for just 17% of our final energy demand. But heat is crucial in terms of fuel dependency. Whether for domestic central heating or in industrial applications, heat accounts for around 70% of all UK natural gas consumption, imported or otherwise. Discussing energy security, in particular the security of gas supplies, without discussing heat completely misses the heart of the issue.

Despite this, there is currently no heat strategy in the UK.

While focusing enormous resources on nuclear power, which does little to relieve gas consumption and provide heat, the government’s 2007 Energy White Paper had only 4 out of 342 pages on heat.

In the UK today, power stations waste on average almost two thirds of the energy they generate and therefore two thirds of the fuel they consume. In fact, 20% of all the UK’s CO2 emissions come from the fuel burnt in creating this wasted heat, which means a fifth of our national CO2 emissions come from something that serves no useful purpose to us at all.

CHP offers the most efficient use of fuel for combustion, making use of the unused heat from thermal electricity generation. If power stations are built and located close to industries so that this heat can be captured rather than dumped into cooling towers or nearby waterways, it can be piped as high pressure steam or hot water into industrial processes or buildings. By using more of the energy in the fuel, CHP can more than double the useful output from the power station. In this way, CHP deals simultaneously with the challenge of providing heat, lowering emissions and increasing efficiency whilst decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels.

Cutting out waste by using CHP starts to tackle the core of our energy challenges – reducing fuel use, especially natural gas, insulating us against fuel price rises and cutting CO2 emissions. In Scandinavia and the Netherlands, CHP is widely used and is achieving all of these goals. In fact Denmark and the Netherlands now get over 40% of their power from CHP. However, in the UK CHP has not, to date, received much attention in policy terms, especially compared with nuclear power and new coal fired power plants.

The greater and denser the heat demand, the more practical and economic it is to supply heat from CHP. In the UK, the densest and most consistent heat demand is in the industrial sector. In a few heavily industrialised sites nationwide there is enormous localised heat usage but, to date, only limited use of CHP. An industrial setting makes it relatively easy to develop the infrastructure for CHP. It is easier, cheaper and quicker to deliver because heat is transported over shorter distances and there are fewer users.

Rethinking where and how to site power stations is crucial todelivering a more secure and low carbon energy system.

Pöyry has identified nine specific industrial sites (see map) around the country where CHP could be installed to meet local industry’s heat and power demand and also supply additional electricity to the National Grid. Installing CHP at these nine industrial sites could provide over 13GW of the 14GW potential electricity generation capacity.

The 14GW of electricity generating capacity from CHP identified in Securing Power far outstrips the 10GW that the government’s nuclear new build programme aspires to install by around 2030.

Whilst CHP plants would provide heat at the same time, nuclear power plants rely on cooling systems to dump the heat they generate and so provide only electricity as a useful output.

The new coal plant proposed at Kingsnorth in Kent is 1.6GW incapacity. Industry reports suggest that another seven3 of the same type of coal plants could follow if the government decides to continue to support new coal. These plants could total 10.6GW of capacity and would, at best, achieve around 45% efficiency. So, like nuclear plants, new coal plants would contribute only a fraction of the total energy that could be provided by the CHP plants described in this report and CHP could even produce more electricity.

Based on the ConocoPhillips CHP development at Immingham, industrial CHP is quicker and cheaper to build than nuclear power stations. The Immingham plant supplies two refineries in Humberside with heat, steam and power. It is currently being expanded (although the report shows potential for even greater expansion) and when this expansion is complete it will reach the same electricity generating capacity as the UK’s flagship nuclear power station, Sizewell B. Reports suggest that the total cost of the Immingham development has been around £560 million.

Current estimates put the cost of a single new nuclear power plant significantly higher than CHP capital, between £2.87 and £6.8 billion, not including the cost of managing and storing waste. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) recently increased its estimated cost of dealing with the nuclear waste in the UK from £73 billion9, predicting that the total will be billions more10 up to double the previous estimate.

According to Pöyry, the CO2 saving from fully developing 14GW of CHP, compared to the current system of delivering heat and power separately, is between 10 and 26 million tonnes of CO2 annually, depending on whether you assume that the electricity is replacing solely gas fired power stations or a mixture of coal and gas. At 26 million tonnes of CO2, the saving would be 4.6% of UK CO2 emissions.

Pöyry's conclusion: industrial CHP will reduce CO2 emissions while providing a solid stepping stone towards a more decentralised and increasingly renewable energy system in a way that nuclear cannot.

Joss, I am not arguing that Pöyry’s report is wrong. In fact in my original post above I said it was “almost a good idea”. If you insist on burning gas (which Greenpeace increasingly does) then this is an efficient way to do it. What I do take issue with however is the polemic tacked onto the end of the report: “Most crucially of all, industrial CHP will reduce CO2 emissions while providing a solid stepping stone towards a more decentralised and increasingly renewable energy system” This is a complete non-sequitur. The industrial CHP solution is not decentralised and it is not renewable. In fact the best things about it - the scale of the powerstations and the fact that they produce waste heat in large quantities - are dependent upon the fact that these CHP stations are not decentralised and not renewable. They are big fossil-fuel powerstations. They are more efficient than conventional gas powerstations, but they still generate over ten times as much CO2 per unit of energy compared to nuclear, or wind, or hydro. The report does not demonstrate that decentralised (i.e. small/community sized) energy is a good idea - in fact the opposite. A few big CHP stations makes more sense than lots of tiny ones. It does not propose CHP as a general purpose domestic solution (i.e. for homes), although Greenpeace likes to imply that it is. Finally, the point that I have made many times before is that this, or any proposal, will deliver more carbon savings if it is combined with some nuclear power. Nuclear power does not preclude the use of gas-fired industrial CHP; nor large-scale wind farms. A mix of solutions is needed, and your insistence on excluding nuclear from the mix means fewer carbon savings and greater cost. As the IEA report I cited above shows, nuclear power is a cheaper source of energy, even using existing plants. That is, based on actual figures from real powerstations (nuclear, CHP, and the rest). You say that your opposition to nuclear power is not ideological, but your lack of convincing argument suggests otherwise. Practically, nuclear is a good solution. The IEA report shows it is cheap in real terms. The safety record compared to other forms of generation, including renewables, shows that it is safe. Certainly safer in real terms (lives lost per TWh) than the waste (pollution) from gas or biomass used in CHP.

"In fact, 20 per cent of all of the UK's CO2 emissions come from the fuel burnt in creating this wasted heat." - I find this staggering when it could be heating our homes. --

Finally, remember that the gas used in new CHP plants would be burned
anyway - at least this way we use less of it, and that far more
efficiently, and start getting on track for the reduced carbon future
which we need to embrace.

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