Cogeneration - combined heat and power

There's one energy saving technology that according to Australia's Clean Energy Council (CEC) is grossly underused in our nation.

Cogeneration is the use of one power source to produce both electrical and thermal (heating) energy.

Furthermore, trigeneration is the combination of cooling, heat and power from one source.

David Green, chief executive of the CEC has stated that cogeneration is typically more than twice as energy efficient as conventional electricity generation, and could help avoid the $100 billion worth of upgrades currently needed for Australia's power generating infrastructure over the next decade.

Cogeneration and trigeneration are measures that could assist in offsetting national peak energy demand, as well as meeting electricity and cooling needs in commercial buildings and communities.

It also has the potential to bring new competition into the Australian energy market and between electricity suppliers, which would benefit consumers with lower electricity prices.

As well as this, giving the consumer more options such as solar water heating and cogeneration leads to greater sustainability options and choice for the consumer, as well as overall businesses and communities.

"Generating power independently presents enormous potential for all kinds of energy consumers to meet their electricity, cooling, and, where needed, heating demand, cutting down on the amount of power drawn from the grid at peak times, and significantly reducing the need for costly network upgrades," Mr Green said.

Mr Green also comments that Australia's energy market is more than just electricity - it's heating and cooling - and the government needs to recognise this fact and integrate it into its legislation.

However, there are some impressive cogeneration projects underway in Australia and more in the planning stages.

NSW's Macquarie University has two gas-fired generators producing electricity as well as heat and cooling, as well as chilled water storage. The project's worth $6.7 million and saves 5,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

As well as this, the construction of two 30 MW cogeneration facilities at the sugar mills in Condong and in Broadwater, NSW, is almost finished.

The University of Newcastle has a gas-powered microturbine providing energy for some of the Medical Science building's air-conditioning needs as well as heating and hot water.

Additionally, the City of Sydney has a Trigeneration Master Plan, aiming to supply its 230 buildings with trigeneration by 2015.

Posted by Charlie Moore