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10.12.2020, 15:58

Future-proofing Your Commercial Power Supply

Facilities Management, Energy Management, United Kingdom

Luke Worrall, business development manager for UK-baseed NerG, presents the business case for self-operated combined heat and power (CHP) systems.

 

If I told you there's a way of only paying £6.50 for every £12 worth of electricity you use, you’d think it sounded too good to be true. However, businesses that generate their own electricity using combined heat and power (CHP) systems do just that. CHP systems take one input, namely natural gas, and turn it into two outputs — electricity and heat.

 

Just the right size

The key to getting the most out of a CHP system is installing a correctly sized unit. If the system is designed to meet the facility’s heat base-load, it’s too small to fulfil the facility’s electricity demands. This means the facility still needs to take significant levels of electricity from the grid to supplement that supplied by the CHP system.

 

The main aim of CHP systems is to generate electricity as efficiently as possible. The heat is a secondary output that will ideally be used rather than be wasted. However, that doesn’t change the fact that you need to see the heat for what it is, an added benefit of CHP, not its main purpose. Only systems that are designed to offset as much grid electricity as possible reap the biggest financial rewards.

 

Electricity usage profiles can be calculated using half-hour meter data obtained from your electricity supplier. Once these are established, it is a straightforward process to calculate the electricity base-load for the building. This information can be used to determine which CHP system is best suited to meet the building’s electricity demands. If implemented correctly, CHP systems can offset up to 85 per cent of the site’s grid supplied electricity consumption and provide savings of between 30 and 40 per cent on its electricity bills.

 

A major consideration for facility managers looking to generate their own electricity is whether they are guaranteed to see a return on their investment. This makes the evolving energy landscape unsettling for some, who worry that it adds a layer of uncertainty. However, CHPs supplied from an innovative heat and power specialist are future-proofed to protect your investment.

 

Future-proof electricity supply

The UK Government was the first G7 nation to commit in legislation to an ambition for reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Heat decarbonisation will play a crucial role in achieving this goal.

 

The UK’s first live pilot to introduce hydrogen into a gas network to heat homes and buildings is fully operational at Keele University in Staffordshire. Up to 20 per cent (by volume) of hydrogen was injected into the University’s existing gas network, supplying power to 100 homes and 30 faculty buildings.

 

As promising as this might sound from a green energy perspective, introducing change is always a worry for businesses who must upgrade their systems in line with the evolving energy landscape. Luckily, the CHP systems NerG and many other companies supply are future-proofed, and increasingly able to operate on a mix of hydrogen and natural gas. So facility managers who are reluctant to generate their own electricity out of concern that any power solution might become redundant when hydrogen is added into the gas network need not worry.

 

A secure supply

With the drive towards electrification, demands on the national electricity grid will rise significantly over the next decade and the grid itself will need to undergo significant infrastructure upgrades to cope with this. This means that the importance of localised electricity generation will grow considerably to cope with the increased pressure on the grid.

 

CHP systems increase a facility’s energy security by protecting it against problems associated with the national grid, producing electricity at the point of use. When operating in island mode, CHP systems produce electricity independent of the national grid. This enables them to operate even in the event of an outage on the grid. Using automatic switching, the system can be set up to seamlessly switch to island mode so that, in the event of an outage, the system remains energised.

 

Unplanned downtime negatively impacts productivity and consumer trust. A survey of manufacturers found that, when they experienced unplanned downtime, 37 per cent lost production time on critical assets. It can also be financial devastating, costing businesses millions of pounds if the outage isn’t fixed quickly. The black start potential of CHP helps businesses avoid this by keeping them up and running in the event of an outage.

 

Furthermore, CHP systems help to protect businesses against price volatility while guaranteeing a secure energy supply. Because electricity is more expensive than gas, and price rises occur proportionally with one another, businesses generating their own electricity using the gas network can expect to pay less than if they purchase electricity directly.

 

With the significant cost savings and added energy security benefits, CHP systems offer facility managers the chance to revolutionise how their sites meet their energy demands.

 

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