The consortium, which includes energy and installation companies as well as government departments, aims to have its first-generation system up and running by the end of 2007.
Research from COGEN Europe, the pan-European trade association promoting CHP, highlights that across the European Union there is the potential for up to 50 million installations. The key markets for micro-CHP deployment are initially the UK, the Netherlands and Germany.
‘Micro-CHP is a hot topic at the moment, thanks to government pressure to reduce our carbon footprint and the home-owner’s focus on cost reduction. People realise that micro-CHP offers a more environmentally friendly and cost-effective solution over the long term. However, at the moment CHP systems under development for the domestic market will fail to offer performance at the right price and are typically three years from market,’ said GTC Chairman Peter van der Lichte. ‘There is significant demand now, therefore the market needs a product that costs around the same as current systems, yet can deliver the high efficiency that the technology promises.’
European governments are keen to see micro-CHP systems deployed in order to meet international and domestic targets on carbon emissions. In particular, the UK government wants all households to reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2050 and has lowered VAT from 17.5% to 5% for homes that install micro-CHP systems. In Holland the government is also backing micro-CHP deployment with similar initiatives to the UK and public funding is available for companies developing mass-market CHP systems. A 2005 study from the UK’s Energy Savings Trust suggests that by 2050, micro-CHP systems (also known as co-generation) could provide 30-40% of the UK’s electricity needs.
‘There is no doubt that micro-CHP will play a significant role in the future of electricity generation, not just in Western Europe, where there is currently high demand, but globally. However, no single panacea will deliver government targets for carbon emissions over the next forty years. Instead many new technologies will start to appear, alongside the refinement of existing systems. This will require a combination of investment in bold innovation and excellent engineering, as demonstrated by GTC’s initiative,’ commented Cambridge Consultants’ Duncan Smith.
Smith continued, ‘At Cambridge Consultants we are seeing a huge amount of interest in the rapidly emerging ‘clean-tech’ area, not only for energy generation and consumption but also the impact of every-day products and how they are recycled at the end. Not only are these developments good for the environment but they also represent massive opportunities for product differentiation and commercial success.’
Cambridge Consultants says it was awarded the project as it has experience in rapidly developing products for highly regulated industries and is able to assemble expert multi-disciplinary teams to develop the product with a complete system perspective.
Micro-CHP systems use natural gas in much the same way as conventional gas boilers do to provide a home with heating and hot water. However, unlike a gas boiler, micro-CHP systems also generate a modest amount of electricity as a by-product (typically in excess of one kilowatt). This provides a house with enough electricity to cover its ‘baseload’ – appliances such as fridges and freezers which are always running, or the majority of its lighting requirements, meaning that it requires less from the national grid. Any excess electricity not used within the building is sold back to the electricity supplier, providing the consumer with additional cost-saving benefits.