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Archive for the ‘chp’ Category

A few weeks ago, my business partner and I were walking to a meeting in Stratford when we realised we were surrounded by several heat networks (seven actually): each one standing alone, isolated from its neighbours, each dependent on its own small boilers or CHP, each its own tiny monopoly. Seven networks right next to each other, brazenly missing the opportunity to reduce cost and carbon by linking together.

Here he his, pointing them out:

 

 

The scene on that Stratford street corner highlights a failure of coordination on the part of planners and a lack of incentives to link small heat networks to each other and to larger-scale sources of low-carbon heat.

But what if we put it right? Imagine for a minute that we do stitch together groups of small networks, perhaps using the £320 BEIS funding to do it. Technically it might be straightforward, but what about commercial structure? What do you do with all those little monopolies?

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Last week, Bill Watts at M&E practice Max Fordham wrote a passionate rant against CHP and heat networks on the Construction Manager website.

The crux of Bill’s message is that real world losses on new build projects are higher than losses calculated using manufacturers’ specs and SAP. How much higher? Bill’s not sure – he says that only ESCOs know how well or how poorly heat networks are working. But in any case “much higher than we’ve been led to believe.”

A few days after the original article appeared, Construction Manager ran a follow up piece in which people from the building industry try to rebut Bill’s argument. In general the respondents make the case that CHP and DH have an important role to play in decarbonising heat, with several highlighting that the Heat Network Code of Practice should improve the performance of new networks.

But in my view the industry respondents missed the key point.

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In the previous post, I highlighted where innovation is taking place in the UK district heating market. In this post, I’d like to flag up some important areas where innovation isn’t happening – but really should be. Below are a few of the biggest blocks in the market, where change is desperately needed but so far not forthcoming.

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This is the sixth post in a series on district heating. Here’s where to find  1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

We’ve looked at how district heating (DH) can go wrong. Now let’s look at ways to help make sure it goes right. First: design.

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I’ve been talking to an electricity aggregator this week, exploring possibilities for getting better value for the electricity from small combined heat and power units (CHPs). This is important because better value for electricity = lower tariffs to the homes using the heat.

We were looking specifically at using these CHPs to take strain off the local grid during times of extraordinary demand. Having this spare capacity available in an emergency is worth a hell of a lot to the DNO, who runs the local network. In fact, for each megawatt of generation capacity, you might get paid several tens of thousands of pounds each year.

So what do you have to do to get paid? Just be ready to generate electricity at short notice. They’ll probably only call you 6 or 10 times each year, and probably only need you for an hour or so each time. Easy.

At last! The benefits of producing energy locally get some recognition, right? Well… no.

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As summarised in earlier posts, license light is pretty much the only tool in OFGEM’s toolbox to allow small scale generation schemes to get value for the electricity they generate. It’s nothing to do with subsidies or guaranteed prices or feed in tariffs. Instead license light is trying to redress the fact that our electricity market just isn’t a level playing field. The big companies can afford to play, while small time (usually low carbon) generators are squeezed out.

I noted in the earlier post that the GLA were working on a pilot to trial license light. They had hoped to get the license light toolkit and sample contracts published by end of March 2012. This hasn’t happened.

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Sometimes a tweet just won’t do. Yesterday I tweeted this:

DECC cnsltn out on gas gen. Um, 25% of UK elec gen lost by 2020. 20 yrs to new nuclear. No coherent RE strat. #DoneDeal #Fracking #3Degrees

…but somehow it doesn’t immediately convey the whole point. So here’s an expanded version:

DECC has today published its call for evidence  to “to inform a gas generation strategy to deliver a secure and affordable route to a low carbon economy.”
It’s lovely of them to ask. But consider the backdrop to this consultation:

  • Between a quarter and a third of current UK electricity generation capacity will come offline by the end of the decade. (It’s worth reading that sentence again – the implications are massive.)
  • New nuclear will not fill the gap. It will take at least 8 years to build each new nuclear power station and the stable of new UK nukes is struggling get out of the gates – that 8 year clock hasn’t even started ticking. In a massive setback to new nuclear, last month RWE and Npower abandoned plans for two new power stations in the wake of the collapse of the German nuclear market.
  • Without a radical change in policy, Renewables and energy storage will not grow at a sufficient rate to fill the gap.

So what does that leave us?

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The EU won’t publish its data on emissions from biofuels and tar sands until the spring but the working figures have been leaked to EurActiv and published on line.

The figures show that, once Indirect Land Use Changes are counted, biodiesel from palm and soybeans is roughly as polluting as Canadian tar sands. And rapeseed oil (which OFGEM has classed as “renewable”) is nearly as bad. And all three are worse than crude oil.

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On-site generation only works if you get good value for the energy you produce. For example, the viability of CHP (and the resulting cost of heat) depends on the price you get for the electricity you generate.

So what are your options? You could export to the grid under an offtake contract with a licensed electricity supplier. But as a small generator your electricity is almost worthless to them so they won’t pay much for it: maybe 2 or 3p. So unless you’re able to negotiate a particularly sweet contract, this is usually a non-starter.

The obvious route should be to sell energy directly to people on the site where the energy is generated. That’s supposed to be the point of distributed energy, right? (more…)

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Sure, biodiesel is considered “renewable” in the upcoming building regs. But that won’t stop the backlash against developers who use it.

Yesterday a biodiesel generation plant proposed for Avonmouth near Bristol was rejected 6-2 in planning committee on the grounds of its  impact on rainforests on the other side of the globe. Of the 1,121 letters received by councilors in advance of the meeting, only 2 were in favour of the plant.

Strictly speaking, the application should not have been rejected. The plant passed air quality tests and all other material considerations.  The chairwoman of the committe went as far as saying she could find no reason to refuse the application and the city’s legal chief agreed. After all, it’s not the job of the planners to consider the source of fuel – that’s OFGEM’s role.

But that didn’t stop the committee throwing it out anyway, at the end of a fiery meeting, on moral and ethical grounds.

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