Unjustified and Insignificant Government Support for Micro-CHP in Europe - Unlikely to Catalyse Transition from Field Tests to Mass Production

Published: 8 Jan 2013

By Neha Vikash

Micro-CHP (mCHP) is the small scale generation of heat and electricity simultaneously, from a single energy source, in individual homes or buildings. The initial success has been based on the deployment of internal combustion engine (ICE), with most mCHP units running on natural gas. Units are operable on a wide variety of fuels such as natural gas, diesel, kerosene, LPG, fuel oil and also on bio fuels. The niche mCHP markets are currently showing steady growth in Europe, but the overall opportunity in Europe is high. Over 5 million conventional boilers are sold annually that can be replaced with mCHP units.  The choice of the type of technology depends on the heat to power ratio. Stirling engine based mCHP and ICE produce lesser electricity in comparison to fuel cells.  The heat to power ratio is one differentiator, while others include cost, size, weight, noise, reliability, lifetime, operating hours, payback and how quickly the system can modulate, start-up or shut down.

Technology PROS and CONS

Micro-CHP units when installed in large volumes lead to efficient energy management in the smart grid and transmission and distribution (T&D) space. In a smart grid, mCHP units can be aggregated and be used as a single source of flexible generation to balance supply and demand. Micro-CHP units can sell the surplus electricity to the grid, which is expected to provide an economic incentive for consumers to invest in such boilers. They can enable electric vehicle charging during off peak hours. When compared to a condensing boiler, an engine based mCHP unit could save nearly 1.7 tonnes CO2 annually for a typical family home, whereas a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) could save more than 4 tonnes of CO2. However, the industry faces several hurdles hampering its mass deployment.

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