Securing long-term energy control with Combined Heat and Power

John Hyde of Centrica Business Solutions explains how Combined Heat and Power (CHP) can contribute towards a sustainable energy future with high efficiency on-site generation.

Increased electricity demand, escalating costs, pressure on the grid and a greater drive towards sustainability, mean that organisations are looking for alternatives to centralised supply – one that enables efficient on-site energy control.

With the spark spread (the difference in price between purchasing network electricity and the natural gas used to generate that power) at an incredibly attractive rate, CHP can deliver exceptional cost savings. It provides secure, flexible energy supply that is cost-effective and easy to manage.

CHP/cogeneration is a well-established technology, but one that is constantly evolving to keep it among the best energy-saving solutions available. It’s one of the most efficient sources of energy production – and can play a role in supporting a business’ net zero transition by providing significant cost savings. With a return on investment in the region of two to three years, CHP drives cost efficiencies into the organisation that can be used to fund pure green technologies with longer paybacks and more marginal economics.

Matching flexibility to your project

Clearly, the most important thing to consider before investigating a CHP solution is whether it is right for an organisation to utilise the technology. To make this assessment and scope a project there are several steps that you and a solutions provider can take to ensure the appropriateness of CHP for the site.

Energy data collection is fundamental for correctly sizing a unit and calculating the associated savings accurately. The appropriate site data needs to be collected and validated. At a minimum, this requires utility consumption of the site (grid electricity and natural gas) and the associated tariffs (i.e. pence/kWh).

Producing an initial feasibility study validate the collected data to check whether a CHP scheme is likely to be feasible or not. The output is often conducted by calculating the spark spread between the grid electricity tariff and the natural gas tariff.

Conducting an on-site review determines more solid installation options and cost by understanding the site’s suitability for CHP and how it can interface with all site services required to deliver optimal performance. Installation costs can vary dramatically from site-to-site depending on several key factors:

  • Location of CHP plant
  • Gas availability
  • Space allocation
  • Planning implications
  • Noise issues
  • Local regulations
  • Maintenance restrictions
  • Electrical connections i.e. LV, HV, network restrictions
  • Thermal integration
  • Emissions regulations

Centrica Business Solutions’ new technical CHP guide shows how Combined Heat and Power units can help you achieve long-term performance.  

CHP key considerations

Deploying a CHP project requires careful planning to deliver sustained benefits for the lifetime of your asset and ensure that your project doesn’t fall foul of regulations or environmental compliance.

Some important issues you should check:

  • Permissions: Is planning permission necessary? Are your plans compliant with relevant rules and frameworks, ie. BREEAM, Building Regulations Level 2, etc.?
  • Low NOx: Do you understand the environmental compliance requirements, especially operating within NOx guidelines? Modern CHP energy systems should reduce your overall NOx emissions, which you need to calculate to a BREEAM-approved format.
  • Low Noise: CHPs are often situated in plant rooms in built up areas, so noise outputs must be considered when specifying a CHP.
  • G99/G100 Protection: Is the generator connected to the mains in accordance with the requirements of G99/G100? And does the relay meet enable you to easily enact further protection if requested by the District Network Operator?
  • Remote Monitoring System: Does the CHP utilise control systems that are linked to a cloud-based control, protection and monitoring system? Can the provider control engine starting, synchronise the generator to the mains electricity supply and help control the power output?

It’s about more than just the engine

Deploying your CHP successfully means doing more than just buying and placing the engine. To get the best results and deliver long-term energy cost savings, It is important to select an energy solutions partner who can support you across the entire project lifecycle, with:

  • Flexible asset financing: Many organisations face challenges when looking at on-site generation projects because of capital constraints and competing funding priorities. This makes it difficult to build a complex and detailed investment case to secure senior approval. Asset financing from a solutions provider or a 3rd party can ensure your business case is robust.
  • Green Gas supply: While almost 70% of CHP schemes in the UK currently run on natural gas, green gas CHP will play an increasingly important role as the grid decarbonises. Centrica plc has a 50 per cent stake in Barrow Green Gas, the UK’s largest supplier of biomethane – shipping almost half of the green gas used by British homes and businesses
  • Energy visualisation: If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. It is critical to have a remote 24/7 monitoring system for your CHP. Centrica Business solutions’ energy management software, PowerRadar, brings the intelligence and visibility you need to understand and analyse your entire energy estate – providing a single view to visualise and track the performance of your CHP solution. This can notify us of a change in state of the plant on site and enables our energy centre to  diagnose over 200 problems remotely and restart the system.
  • Operation and Maintenance: Ensuring the ongoing, safe and optimal performance of your CHP is key to getting the best savings over the long-term. It is wise to arrange a   service and maintenance plan.   O
  • Optimisation: The potential to cluster energy assets in a decentralised smart-grid or virtual power plant is exciting and likely to become more commonplace in the future. We provide digitised energy management solutions, such as Demand Side Response,  to monetise on-site generation.

Cogeneration expertise

Centrica Business Solutions is a market leader in CHP, with over 3,200 CHP built in the UK to date and deployed all over the global. We have more than 30 years’ experience as both a manufacturer and supplier of cogeneration systems, with deep technical knowledge of all stages of design, delivery and operation.

Further information:

Download Centrica’s technical guide to CHP: