Is wasting energy really the best policy?

Do you realise that when you switch on the lights and run your PC that the bulk of your electricity will be coming from hydrocarbon based generation source such as one of the large scale combined cycle gas generation turbine (CCGT) station, or from a coal fired power station.

Power station

Do you also realise that a recent BBC study calculated that 65% of the energy input to these power stations is lost either through the inability to use the waste heat produced during generation, or through losses in the transmission and distribution system. This means that more than double the amount of energy that you use has to be fed into the generation system! With significantly increased carbon prices on the horizon the cost penalty associated with this wastage is set to rise steeply….which then feeds through into everyone’s energy bills.

If we could use the heat produced during the generation process, and produce the electricity closer to the point of consumption i.e. your business or home, this energy wastage could be reduced dramatically.

The technology needed to do this is not new. Indeed in Germany district heating schemes abound where combined heat and electricity production structurally avoid this wastage.

Combined heat and power plant (CHP) is a mature technology at the community level. And new technologies such as fuel cells and micro-chp (combined heat and power) offer the possibility of creating electricity at the point of consumption whilst using the waste heat at the individual home or business premise level.

The government’s plans are to build more centralised gas generation stations (CCGTs) and to perpetuate this waste when what is needed is a shift in our generation paradigm.

Where possible we should be putting in place community level generation or individual property level generation whenever there is a heat demand that can be satisfied from the heat produced during electricity generation.

Businesses and communities should be getting together and taking control of the generation of the electricity they need and using the associated heat. This will bring with it all the benefits of a sustainable solution in the medium and long term – lower costs (unless perverse incentives are introduced by government), better security of supply, and sound environmental protection. 

Published by: Enstra Consulting

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The Internet of Energy

Read the recent article by Ian Campbell of Enstra on the coming of age of the Internet of Energy based on his insights from being chair of the Smarter Homes and Buildings group at the EUA.  You can read the article by clicking here.

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