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Cogeneration Has Seen Decline Despite Its Ability to Help California’s Clean Energy Goals



A promising energy technology has suffered a downturn. In recent years, combined heat and power (CHP) systems, also known as cogeneration, has seen a decline despite its ability to help California achieve clean energy goals.

Cogeneration generates on-site electricity and thermal energy so less fuel is used to produce heat. Power plants can use this heat, typically lost when making electricity, rather than getting a separate heating power system. Wastewater treatments are ideal for CHP systems because they use the waste heat on-site to warm the digesters and contribute excess electricity to the grid.

The latest tracking progress report from the California Energy Commission finds that despite policy, program and research efforts to support CHP, the technology is producing less electricity.

As of 2017, about 7,649 megawatts (MW) of CHP were installed statewide. Since 2010, California’s CHP fleet has decreased 8 percent in nameplate capacity and 25 percent in annual electrical generation, according to the report.

Still, the technology shows potential and there has been legislation to encourage its development.

The Waste Heat Recovery and Carbon Emissions Reduction Act, also known as Assembly Bill 1613, provides CHP facilities up to 20 MW in size a secure revenue stream if they meet efficiency and performance requirements.

Two major state laws also encourage CHP development. Under Assembly Bill 32, the California Air Resources Board prepared a scoping plan that set a carbon dioxide emissions reductions goal from the increased use of CHP facilities. Senate Bill 32 established a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s 2010 Clean Energy Jobs Plan calls for 6,500 MW of new CHP by 2030.

The Energy Commission is conducting research to develop and help bring to market CHP technologies that produce environmental benefits, increase electricity reliability, and reduce costs.

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California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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