The CHP Shibboleth

(This is the last article to be published during the trip to Australia.)

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) is dragged out periodically by supporters of the AGW CO2 global warming hypothesis, to promote distributed power and the use of wind and solar for generating electricity.

Power Magazine recently devoted a substantial part of its monthly magazine to CHP, with a section, “Global Developments Giving CHP a Much Needed Boost” and two articles devoted to CHP installations.

The magazine proclaimed the UNFCCC COP 21 Paris agreement to cut CO2 emissions could provide the needed boost to CHP growth.

Typically, promoters of CHP start by saying that CHP improves efficiency. They even promote the idea that CHP can achieve efficiencies of 90%. Greenpeace made this claim in its plan, the “Energy [R]evolution” which is riddled with hype and misinformation.

CHP uses exhaust gasses or steam from power plants that generate electricity, to provide heat to buildings or industrial processes. This results in more energy being used for work, but it doesn’t dramatically improve efficiency.

The mistake arises when people assign the same value to the heat extracted from exhaust gasses with the electricity produced by the power plant. The exhaust gasses have low heat (i.e., energy) content and therefore less value than the electricity (i.e., energy) produced by the power plant.

A good analogy is one suggested by the former editor of Power Magazine:

An automobile’s engine using gasoline has considerable horsepower and also heats water in the engine’s cooling system. The hot water is then used to heat passengers during the winter. While this takes advantage of the heat in the water, the water doesn’t have the power to drive the automobile. Gasoline has high energy density, while hot water has a low energy density.

Figure Depicting Heat Value and Uses
Figure Depicting Heat Value and Uses

The Obama administration promoted CHP with an executive order. The EPA, under the Obama administration, issued a 22 page report touting the benefits of CHP as a “clean energy solution”. It has also maintained a database ( to provide information supporting CHP. For example, CHP qualified for a 10% investment tax credit in 2016.

Historically, there has been a role for CHP in industrial complexes and refineries since the steam, or exhaust heat, could be used to heat buildings or be used in industrial processes.

Europe has used exhaust steam to heat residential buildings. Consolidated Edison used CHP to heat buildings in New York City.

In cities, where buildings are closely packed, piping exhaust stem to these buildings can make sense.

But trying to impose CHP in areas where there are no industrial uses, or where buildings are widely spaced, such as in typical American suburbs, is irrational.

(Suburbs with free-standing residential buildings are an anathema to city planners and to those promoting CO2 induced climate change, so CHP fits a strategy that promotes mixed use development.)

Europe’s energy efficiency directive ( requires member states to promote CHP and remove barriers to its deployment. In addition, European countries have used policy tools such as feed-in tariffs to support CHP.

CHP has become a political football, where it’s being used to promote cutting CO2 emissions. CHP can be used effectively in specific applications where it can be justified economically, but it shouldn’t be forced on Americans by an executive order or the EPA, or radical environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, to cut CO2 emissions.

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Nothing to Fear, Chapter 12, explains why carbon capture and sequestration will not work.

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon:

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear
Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

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