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Heat is Power Quoted in E&E Article on President’s Executive Order

Sep 12, 2012


Obama signs executive order calling for combined heat and power [WHP]

Gabriel Nelson, E&E reporter


Fresh off releasing the strictest-ever fuel economy standards for cars sold in the U.S., the White House is taking the position that American industrial plants could gain from becoming more efficient, too.

President Obama today signed an executive order calling for greater use of combined heat and power, which takes the heat from a boiler or an industrial process and uses it to keep buildings warm or generate electricity. The order sets a goal of adding 40 gigawatts of new capacity by 2020, a 50 percent increase from today.

“This action will cut costs, increase efficiency, and help our businesses create strong, middle class jobs,” Obama said in a statement. “We’ll continue to do everything we can to put more people back to work and build an economy that lasts.”

Many large facilities, such as hospitals, universities and military bases, already use the technique to meet their substantial energy needs, providing roughly 10 percent of all U.S. electricity.

Just within the past few years, cheap natural gas has made it more cost-effective for industrial plants to draw their heat and electricity from the same gas-burning boilers. And because these operations are highly efficient — putting as much as 80 percent of the energy in their fuel to use, compared to about 60 percent for a cutting-edge power plant — today’s executive order quickly won praise from environmental groups and others that push for greater energy efficiency.

Combined heat and power has long been a priority of the Obama administration. Just yesterday, EPA released an air pollution permit that would encourage the Architect of the Capitol to proceed with a plan to burn natural gas for both electricity and heat at the facility that currently provides heat to the Capitol complex (see related story).

The White House acknowledged today that plenty of obstacles remain in the private sector. Companies complain about the amount of red tape they must cut through to link projects to the power grid, and some say they don’t get enough credit from regulators.

“By working with all stakeholders to address these barriers, we have an opportunity to save industrial users tens of billions of dollars in energy costs over the next decade,” the executive order says.

The White House, which has spent the past few months reviewing an EPA rule that sets limits on toxic emissions from industrial boilers, today called for “output-based” rules to recognize plants that are inherently cleaner than their counterparts because they use less fuel to get the same amount of energy. It also encouraged EPA to help states account for the energy savings of these plants as a way to meet national air quality standards.

Conventional combined heat and power is already increasing, but one key form of it — making electricity from otherwise wasted heat at industrial plants such as paper mills and natural gas compressor stations — has been slower to grow.

Kelsey Southerland, the government relations director at Houston-based TAS Energy Inc. and the leader of the recently formed Heat is Power Association, said the government could make it easier for this waste-heat-to-power technology to get off the ground. She said it would also help to count this technology as renewable for the purposes of state portfolio standards and tax credits, because the heat produced by industrial plants will otherwise just dissipate into the air.

Businesses such as paper mills see the potential to profit from turning excess heat into power, but they still have to warm up to the idea. That’s natural, Southerland said, because they can’t let their products suffer for the sake of a new electricity source.

“Those guys make paper. They don’t make power,” she said. “There’s a whole education process.”


Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net. 202/628-6500

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