Micro-CHP has potential

Photo: Barbara Reva

Micro CHP can be a highly efficient energy distribution solution that enables simultaneous heat and power production near the point of consumption, explained Tadej Auer of the Development Centre for Hydrogen Technologies, Ljubljana. Micro CHP meets the demand for heating, hot water and/or cooling in buildings while generating electricity to replace or complement the grid supply. It is usually installed in residential and public buildings, or small businesses.

According to Auer, demonstration projects such as Callux and ene.field (the latter comprising more than 800 systems in 11 EU countries) attest to the reliability of products and to progress in their quality: the dimensions and weight of appliances have been reduced, systems now allow quicker installation, maintenance requirements have declined. If the capital costs are still a big challenge for market growth, the systems can compete with other technologies in terms of running costs.

“This technology needs a high level of political recognition on a national scale,” said Auer, who also drew attention to administrative barriers, which are preventing access to existing support schemes and funding as well as grid connection. “Another barrier is the lack of EU-wide harmonisation of standards, for instance in gas quality or electrical and thermal capacity of domestic appliances. Further improvements are needed to use the full potential of performance assessment methodologies for such technologies, admitted Auer. He expects that increased manufacturing volumes will be the biggest driver of capital cost reduction, but this will require a stable policy framework and a high-level political commitment to ensure investor confidence. Germany has proven to be the strongest market for this technology for a number of reasons including regional funding opportunities, tolerance of higher costs of heating systems, and a more developed manufacturer and installer base.

Hydrogen in sight?

The Development Centre for Hydrogen Technologies is currently involved in another EU project, HYACINTH, where partners are investigating the social acceptance of fuel cell and hydrogen (FCH) projects and applications. The purpose of the project is to develop tools to increase the social acceptance, said Auer’s colleague and another researcher from the Ljubljana Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Mitja Mori. As Mori said in the presentation, awareness for FCH in households is fairly low: only 25% of respondents in the project study reported having heard about residential fuel cell micro CHP. “Slightly more, around 45% have heard about the use of FCH technologies in transport, but the high price of such cars and FCH technologies in general remains a challenge,” said Mori, adding that he was perfectly aware that FCH technologies are facing strong competition, including from renewable energy sources.

Here, Mihael Sekav?nik of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering – one of the founders of the aforementioned development centre – emphasised that in future energy will not be as cheap as it is today, and will therefore no longer be regarded a social good.

Source: https://www.energetika.net/eu