My name is Marco Romani. I moved to the UK 6 months ago from Italy in order to lead a Knowledge Transfer Partnership Project between Building Sustainability Limited, a management software development company, and the University of Brighton.

Our Project started in June with a very simple idea: identification and removal of the barriers to decentralised power and CHP uptake in large institutions and industry. Today we are nearing the completion of our macro research, which confirms that the potential for CHP across the country is five times larger than what is actually being implemented.

The UK is facing three major challenges in its supply and use of energy. First, the risks of climate change are now accepted and the need to reduce cumulative CO2 emissions has become a fundamental part of the energy policies of all countries. Secondly, the UK has benefited from indigenous energy resources of coal, oil and natural gas for many years, but now is facing a new situation where fossil fuels are increasingly imported from a declining resource against a background of rising worldwide energy demand. Thirdly, the UK needs to maintain competitive energy prices to enable both industry and society to thrive. Combined Heat and Power has been recognised as a technology that can reduce CO2 emissions. It can also be cost-effective to implement in many applications. The greater efficiency of fuel utilisation will also help improve energy security. CHP thus has the potential to help meet all of the three challenges outlined above. So why is CHP currently not attractive enough to large institutions and industry?

Ricardo-AEA research identifies the technical potential of CHP at 29.4GWe in 2013 rising to 31.8GWe in 2020 and 33.8GWe in 2030. The current capacity of approximately 6.1GWe represents 21% of current technical potential.

The results from a recent DECC survey suggest that the financial performance of CHP is always important. Nevertheless, other factors including the capacity of CHP to deliver social and environmental benefits and the ‘fear of the unknown’ are the major drivers inhibiting the uptake of the technology. Over the last few months we have had surveys with several British organisations operating CHP plants confirming this.

“Remove the barriers and shine a light on the benefits. This is how you deliver better consumer value from CHP”

For most sustainable products and behaviours the hard question of “what’s in it for the customer?” is still largely unanswered. Sustainable products and behaviours are better for the planet; we need to make them more obviously better for the person. There is a value equation. You need to tip the balance between the barriers and benefits of your product.

Put simply, with the CHP Bureau – this is the name we have chosen for our product – we want to reduce barriers such as the ‘fear of the unknown’ or the lack of technical support (to list a few) by building the evidence of functional, environmental and social benefits. Here are a few examples of tools that we will offer our customers in order to clear benefits and tear down barriers: easy to read dashboards, automated reports, public educational visualisations, live business case and an online open community.

Recently I attended the Heat Conference 2015, where it was recognised that CHP plants are an excellent option for meeting industrial heat requirements if properly supported by stable long-term Government policy. With the notice of £300m in funding to support heat networks the Government ambition to ensure we can deeply decarbonise urban heat supply is clear. There are currently 180 potential heat network investments in cities across the country, with a potential investment value of £2 billion. Large plants can provide wider economic benefits rather than small plants on condition that you have demand for the heat produced. The Government effort to support heat networks will help to solve this further tricky question.

As Euripides once said ‘Much effort. Much prosperity’. We are doubtless making the effort and certainly this should ultimately pay off in the way of CHP uptake. What have we missed? Suggestions welcome.