Combined heat and power (CHP) technologies provide industries, commercial businesses, institutions, and communities with ways to reduce energy costs and emissions while also providing more resilient and reliable thermal energy and electric power. CHP systems combine the production of heat (for both heating and cooling) and electric power into one process, using much less fuel than when heat and power are produced separately. CHP systems can achieve energy efficiencies of 70 percent or more, compared to producing heat and power separately, which is on average less than 45 percent efficient. Further, CHP systems (appropriately designed) can provide resilient, reliable, around-the-clock thermal and electrical energy even when the local power grid is down.
CHP is a proven technology. There are more than 4,100 CHP systems in use in the United States today. More than two-thirds are fueled with natural gas, but renewable biomass, process wastes, and coal are also used. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reports that the United States has more than 82 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity, representing about eight percent of total U.S. electric power generation capacity.
CHP systems can be used in many different settings and many different scales, ranging from the micro, residential scale to large-scale industrial systems that produce more than 20 megawatts (MW) of power.