Last week, President Obama outlined an aggressive plan to combat climate change through a series of new initiatives and regulations. Though the plan does not explicitly mention combined heat and power (CHP), there are several elements that can be leveraged to increase deployment of CHP and Waste Heat to Power.
1. Emphasis on Energy Efficiency
There is a clear and explicit endorsement of the role of energy efficiency in reducing emissions. Indeed, the plan states: “[e]nergy efficiency is one of the clearest and most cost-effective opportunities to save families money, make our businesses more competitive, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Critically, the plan reiterates President Obama’s specific goal of doubling energy productivity by 2030 relative to 2010 levels.
2. Greenhouse Gas Limits for New and Existing Power Plants
The plan provides a clear mandate for EPA to move forward with greenhouse gas (GHG) standards for new and existing power plants. Moreover, it emphasizes the role of energy efficiency and urges EPA to “provide flexibility, and take advantage of a wide range of energy sources and technologies.” As the ACEEE pointed out in a recent blog post, this flexibility is really promising and means that EPA can simply set a standard and let American innovation and ingenuity drive the means of achieving that goal. One way of meeting the standard could be increasing energy efficiency – and a wider deployment of CHP in particular.
3. Implementing Emissions Reductions Through Flexible, State-based Plans
As part of its power plant GHG emissions reductions efforts, the plan calls for the administration to work in partnership with states, which have shown “leadership” and “progress” on this issue. As Vignesh Gowrishankar of NRDC points out in a blog post, this partnership includes “directing [EPA] to come up with a flexible, state-based plan to cut [plant] emissions. [CHP] systems could play an important role in that plan by raising energy efficiency and reducing energy waste.” Thus, there is a significant opportunity for CHP in a partnership between EPA and the states to reduce power plant emissions.
4. Increasing Resilience of Critical Infrastructure
One of the chief advantages of CHP is its resilience in the face of natural disasters and other events that take down the grid. The President’s plan repeatedly references the need to improve the resilience of critical infrastructure and learn lessons from the effects of Superstorm Sandy. It states: “The importance of critical infrastructure independence was brought home in the Sandy response.” The plan calls for a panel on disaster-resilience standards “to develop a comprehensive, community-based resilience framework and provide guidelines for consistently safe buildings and infrastructure – products that can inform the development of private-sector standards and codes.” As was the case in Texas this past legislative session, such a framework could lead to a requirement that CHP be considered in all critical infrastructure.
5. Promoting Resilience in the Health Sector
The plan directs the Department of Health and Human Services to “launch an effort to create sustainable and resilient hospitals in the face of climate change.” Such an effort will “identify best practices and provide guidance on affordable measures to ensure that our medical system is resilient to climate impacts.” Notably, CHP in hospitals and other large health facilities increases resilience to extreme weather events and reduces GHG emissions.