NC WARN tells regulators that combined heat and power should replace large power plants by putting wasted energy to work
Durham, NC – Recent advances in a decades-old energy-saving technology could allow thousands of North Carolina facilities such as grocery stores, schools and hospitals to save over 30 percent of their annual energy usage. The energy savings from combined heat and power (CHP) at facilities in North Carolina could be roughly equal to the electricity from ten large power plants.
That was the theme of a press conference today at which NC WARN and an expert from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) explained the economic and environmental benefits of CHP – along with the Duke Energy barriers that have hindered its development in the Carolinas.
Many facilities burn fuel on-site for heat or cooling; others do so to generate electricity. CHP combines the two, allowing the wasted energy from one process to fuel the other – boosting the efficiency of the facility.
NC WARN filed a report with state regulators yesterday calling for hearings to determine how best to expand the use of CHP, also called cogeneration. The watchdog group says electricity generated by this ready resource is cheaper than conventional sources, and the energy it saves would dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution while saving ratepayers billions by avoiding risky construction of new power plants.
“Duke Energy is granted guaranteed profits and monopoly protection across the Carolinas, a favor from state government which should require it to prioritize existing resources instead of risking billions of customer dollars on construction of new power plants,” said Anna Moorefield, a paralegal researcher with NC WARN and lead author of the report.
NC WARN has promoted CHP technology in recent years as one of several modern, climate-protecting alternatives to the construction of dirty and expensive power plants. CHP is already being used in North Carolina at dozens of sites including schools, hospitals, manufacturing plants and military bases. But the heat-capturing technology’s potential remains largely untapped due to the lack of public awareness and resistance by the state’s electric utilities.
Recent advances make CHP a strong investment for thousands of smaller facilities. The U.S. Dept. of Energy is promoting expansion of CHP. Federal research recently led to a 2012 executive order calling for development of CHP capacity nationwide that would equal 40 large power plants by 2020.
NC WARN contends Duke Energy and subsidiary Progress Energy should be required to follow the lead of other U.S. utilities that are investing in CHP and putting people to work, or at least eliminate barriers against customers installing CHP themselves.
Although the fossil fuels that power CHP-equipped facilities are not clean, more efficient usage greatly reduces overall pollution including greenhouse gases. NC WARN emphasized today that it does not agree with the burning of garbage, which some consider to be cogeneration.
The technical potential for CHP is equal to over 40 percent of North Carolina’s electricity needs,
according to research by ACEEE. In its filing yesterday in the Integrated Resource Plan docket, NC WARN told the NC Utilities Commission it must foster open and careful debate about how much of that potential should be developed as compared to the contentious, costly and climate-destructive path Duke-Progress is pursuing.
“Development of even a fraction of the potential CHP – using currently wasted energy – could eliminate the need for new power plants and allow us to start closing fossil-fueled plants,” said Jim Warren of NC WARN today, “especially if Duke and Progress stop blocking the advance of solar, wind, CHP and other energy-saving programs.”
A current legislative proposal to eliminate North Carolina’s renewable energy tax credit would, if enacted, harm efforts to create jobs and energy savings from CHP.
Warren said a growing CHP market is a key step on the path toward stabilizing our climate and avoiding staggering rate hikes to pay for new power plants that simply are not needed.
He added: “If Duke Energy executives still have some conservative business savvy – they’ll choose steady profits from CHP and other clean technologies instead of betting the farm on nuclear plant construction.”
See NC WARN’s new report: Combined Heat and Power in North Carolina:
Replacing Large Power Plants by Putting Wasted Energy to Work