Directive 2004/08/EC by the European Parliament states, “The energy-saving potential of cogeneration is currently under-utilized in the European Union. The purpose of this Directive is to facilitate the installation and operation of electrical cogeneration plants in order to save energy and combat climate change.” As the Directive is dated 2004, we have seen many developments in the technology and exploitation of cogeneration, but there is still quite some road to cover.

Jenbacher gas engine model JMS 420 GS-N.LC installed at a cogeneration plant of the BMW Group in Steyr, Austria
Jenbacher gas engine model JMS 420 GS-N.LC installed at a cogeneration plant of the BMW Group in Steyr, Austria

The energy-saving targets that Europe has set for 2020 require more efforts and have shown in particular that energy efficiency is a key parameter. Cogeneration technology for the combined production of electricity and heat is a highly efficient solution that has to gain a bigger portion of the total generated power. The Directive also contained a request to each member state to analyze the national potential for application of cogeneration. The first assessment was due in 2007, while the next one will be in 2011.

COGENEurope, the European association for the promotion of cogeneration, is involved in CODE, a European Community co-funded project that is independently monitoring the implementation of the Cogeneration Directive in Europe. Recently, the preliminary findings of this project were presented at the European Parliament, while the full report is expected later in 2009. This first analysis of the assessments of Europe Member States shows that doubling the existing cogeneration capacity in Europe is economically possible.

COGENEurope reported that there are 97 GW of electrical power produced with cogeneration in Europe today and that reported additional potential shows 122 GWe by 2020. EU Member States have indentified several additional opportunities for cogeneration, all across society: from industry, to the tertiary sector, to agriculture and district heating, and to households. One additional opportunity is represented by old heat distribution networks that could be upgraded with cogeneration projects.

COGENEurope pointed out a few European countries that have major potential for cogeneration. One is Germany, Where it has been calculated that over 50% of the current electricity could be supplied via high-efficiency cogeneration. Dr. Fiona Riddoch, managing director of COGENEurope, said Germany has set itself a target of doubling cogeneration to 24% of its electricity supply by 2020. Riddoch said, “There is considerable potential in several countries, however, the market still remains flat in most countries. Those in the best position to develop their potential, starting today, are those with a reasonable policy structure to encourage and compensate new cogenerators on different fuels, at a time when market liberalization and fluctuating fuel prices have made investment very uncertain. Here, I would mention particularly Spain, Germany and Belgium.”

Picture: The district heating distribution room in a new cogeneration plant
Note: The district heating distribution room in a new cogeneration plant in Northern Italy. The plant is powered by an LM6000 gas turbine by GE Energy.

According to Riddoch, what is really needed now is an overall European cogeneration target to be set, based on the potentials that the Member States have themselves identified as economic. The European Member State governments are supporting new cogeneration projects, but there are still steps to be made. “There are several support mechanisms for cogeneration around Europe. However, this in itself is not enough,” said Riddoch. “Cogeneration is distributed generation, and there is still a lot to be done in many countries to enable reasonable electricity grid access — coordinating/permitting, organizing access and making terms of access fair and transparent.”

One of the main concepts in the economic exploitation of cogeneration technology is the certificate of origin. As Riddoch stated, “The certificate or Guarantee of Origin (GOO) is an integral part of the CHP Directive 2004/08/EC. Each member state is required to set up a reliable system for verifying and recognizing electricity produced in high-efficiency cogeneration mode. Such electricity is guaranteed to save a minimum of 10% primary energy over separate production of heat and electricity.

There is a drive to harmonize the GOO schemes across Europe. GOOs are a tradable commodity.” The main advantages of cogeneration technology are its high energy efficiency and reduced losses on the electrical grid, as these installations are usually closer to the consumption point. The technology is well suited for isolated or extremely remote areas and there is a wide range of power generating technologies and fuels to choose from.

Riddoch said the choice of technology and fuel will be based on each area, according to the local characteristics and economy. “The preferred combination for cogeneration will result from the local energy history and market characteristics,” she concluded.


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