Reviewing the benefits from improved industrial energy efficiency

EiD always appreciates good posts from local newspapers. Patricia Sharkey from the Midwest Cogeneration Association and Susan Brodie from the Heat is Power Association write in the Belleville News-Democrat in Belleville, Illinois in the US about the benefits of industrial energy efficiency.


Guest view: Industrial energy efficiency can create benefits across the board

Imagine if every time you stopped to buy gas, you spilled two gallons for every one you put in the tank. That’s exactly what happens with energy wasted at factories and power plants across the United States: for every barrel of oil or ton of coal burned to generate power, two-thirds of the potential energy is lost – enough energy to power the entire country of Japan.

What if we could capture that lost energy and use it, thereby increasing the efficiency of U.S. manufacturing and power generation? There are commercial technologies that do just that; they significantly increase the efficient use of our energy resources, making industrial energy efficiency one of the best clean energy sources available. Combined heat and power (CHP), which produces both heat and power from a single source of fuel, provides double the efficiency of central station power generation. Waste heat to power (WHP) captures waste heat that would typically be vented from an industrial facility and uses it to make electricity without additional fuel or emissions. Both technologies dramatically lower energy use, emissions, and cost, create jobs, increase private investment, and improve American competitiveness.

According to two studies by the Department of Energy and the Oak Ridge National Labs, expanding the use of CHP and WHP could create as many as 1 million highly skilled jobs throughout the country.

Midwest Cogeneration Association (MCA) and Heat is Power Association (HiP) member companies build, own and operate CHP and WHP systems at manufacturing plants, hospitals, military bases, schools, wastewater treatment plants, commercial buildings, and agricultural facilities across the Midwest. One MCA and HiP member company, Primary Energy, headquartered in Oak Brook, IL, owns and operates CHP and WHP producing 298 megawatts of clean, low cost energy and reducing CO2 emissions by 1,180,000 tons per year.

The challenge is that the upfront cost of installing clean technologies can be prohibitively expensive for companies that require a short term return on investment. Federal tax incentives for installing certain clean and renewable energy sources have helped businesses recoup some of these costs. However, while qualifying CHP systems currently benefit from a federal investment tax credit of 10 percent, it is often not enough to ensure a return on investment in the short time frame most businesses and institutions require. Further, WHP does not qualify for the credit at all, putting it at a distinct disadvantage relative to other clean energy sources.

Enter the Power Efficiency and Resiliency (POWER) Act, currently pending in the House (H.R. 2657) and Senate (S. 1516). The POWER Act would give CHP and WHP the same 30 percent investment tax credit other low and zero-emitting technologies receive. Passage of the POWER Act would have an immediate impact on Illinois’ economy. Our state currently generates just 1.3 gigawatts of energy from CHP and WHP, but we have the potential to generate 7.5 gigawatts.

The POWER Act enjoys bipartisan support in Congress, including four representatives from Illinois: Robert Dold (R-Ill.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), and Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.). At a time when our politicians can’t seem to agree on much, energy efficiency is gaining momentum. In addition, this bill is endorsed by more than 220 businesses, trade associations, and organizations, including more than 34 working in Illinois.

Whether you attend a university, visit a hospital, or purchase products manufactured in the United States, every person can benefit by making clean energy more affordable. CHP and WHP do exactly that. More voices are needed to urge Congress to pass this bipartisan measure to ensure a cleaner, cheaper and stronger energy future.

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