The global climate is changing, and many are working to reduce emissions and build up resiliency across sectors, including electricity generation, transportation, industry, and commercial and residential buildings. Combined heat and power (CHP) can help to confront climate change challenges on both fronts: as an electric and thermal energy generation resource with lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than other generation options, and as a resilient asset that can keep the lights on during grid outages.
CHP can play a significant role in decarbonizing the electricity, buildings, and industrial sectors: in almost all regions of the U.S., CHP systems installed through 2035 and operating through 2050 are expected to cause a net reduction in carbon emissions over their system life. CHP systems require less fuel inputs for the same energy outputs, have a high capacity factor allowing them to displace high-emitting marginal grid resources, and can enable the addition of intermittent renewable resources to the grid by providing a consistent source of power. This net reduction does not include additional reductions that may be achieved by CHP units that use lower-carbon fuels.
Climate scientists say climate change will exacerbate extreme weather events, which are already disrupting the electric grid due to wildfire threats in California and hurricanes along the Gulf and Atlantic coastlines. As risks of grid disruption increase due to climate change, CHP can reliably deliver power and thermal energy locally for critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, military bases, and colleges and universities. CHP’s reliability benefits become even more important as the transportation and buildings sectors are electrified to reduce carbon emissions.
This paper examines these key benefits of CHP systems and how CHP is a climate change solution because it can both reduce emissions and be a resilient energy resource, reliably providing electric and thermal energy even during severe weather events. The next two pages highlight and summarize key insights found throughout the paper.