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The potential for CHP in promoting future energy resilience

The role of CHP in improving energy resilience is raised by BSRIA’s Colin Pearson in his informative article: ‘Is your business prepared for power cuts?’ (HVN 7 January 2015)

Dear Sir,

As an important part of the UK’s distributed generation network, CHP is already contributing to reducing network demand and is key to National Grid’s new Demand Side Balancing Reserve, which incentivises businesses to reduce energy usage or switch to their own generation when demand is highest. 

Power resilience is becoming more important to businesses, with increasing numbers of our customers now choosing to set up CHP systems that can be disconnected from the National Grid to operate in ‘island mode’, thus improving energy security.  This benefit was illustrated powerfully during Hurricane Sandy, when those New York’s CHP systems designed to operate during grid electricity failure kept the power on amid the widespread blackout. This provided vital power resources to critical facilities, such as hospitals, data centres, universities, district energy systems, and wastewater treatment plants. 

But CHP has the potential to take energy resilience one step further. By creating smart CHP networks, the technology could play an increasingly important role in relieving power capacity constraints to keep the lights shining.

Instead of investing in new infrastructure or re-commissioning old fossil fuel power stations, existing clusters of CHP systems could be linked into a decentralised smart-grid to bridge capacity shortfalls. The bonus is that CHP decarbonises power supplies because it is more than twice as efficient as traditional power generation.

A research consortium involving ENER-G; Advanced Digital Institute; Flexitricity; Smarter Grid Solutions and UK Power Networks, has highlighted the potential of  CHP Virtual Power Plants.

Using live data from ENER-G CHP systems and UK Power Networks’ London electricity network, together with extensive simulation and modelling, the research project has demonstrated the possibilities. By using complex software and a central control system to tap into existing CHP capacity, peaks in electrical demand can be relieved.

Active Virtual Power Plants also have potential to  plug future capacity gaps resulting from increased renewable energy from intermittent sources such as wind and solar. In this way, CHP has an important role to play in creating a secure and stable power network.

We are playing an active role in consultation on the European Network Code on Requirements for Grid Connection (RfG), which  is a collaborative approach to promoting grid stability. RfG aims to ensure consistent, reliable power supply across Europe and to avoid power outages.  New European Grid Codes will be introduced, which will necessitate modification to generating equipment, including CHP, to accommodate future connection to electrical grids.

ENER-G Combined Power Technical Director Chris Marsland

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