On Monday, Gov. John Kasich signed legislation that helps Ohio manufacturers increase their efficiency, productivity and competitiveness. With its strong industrial base, Ohio should be the nation’s leader in capturing waste heat, yet it ranks 48th in the nation. The new legislation will change that disappointing statistic by encouraging industrialists to adopt cogeneration and waste energy recovery projects.
Cogeneration (sometimes known as combined heat and power or CHP) is an old idea with modern potential. Even Thomas Edison recognized his power plants produced two products — electricity and heat — and he sold both to surrounding office buildings and factories. Over the past century, however, regulators have focused almost exclusively on electricity, allowing the power grid to throw away two-thirds of energy as heat.
The failure to capture waste heat has been particularly pronounced in Ohio, despite the state’s enormous potential. The Kasich-advanced legislation changes that dynamic.
Senate Bill 315 encourages both efficient cogeneration and clean waste energy recovery. By capturing the heat normally vented by an electric generator, CHP units can reach efficiencies of 60 percent to 80 percent, more than double the power plant average, thereby increasing productivity and reducing pollution. By capturing the waste heat from an industrial process, such as the melting of metal or the drying of materials, waste energy recovery offers clean power without burning any additional fuel or releasing any additional emissions.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates Ohio could obtain almost 10,000 megawatts of energy from CHP and probably another 1,000 megawatts of electric power from waste heat recovery projects in the steel, lime and cement, glass and oil and gas industries alone. Together, these efficient and clean sources would supply about 30 percent of the state’s existing capacity.
Because such units tend to operate around the clock, they would provide valuable and reliable power. Compared to conventional generators, they also greatly reduce the pollution from mercury, acid gases and other pollutants that cause health and environmental damage, as well as slash carbon emissions associated with climate change.
In this partisan era, the bill’s passage represents a bipartisan victory, with the engagement of a wide assortment of industrialists, environmental groups, efficiency advocates, electric utilities and renewable energy developers. Gov. Kasich first highlighted these advanced-energy opportunities at his energy summit in September of last year, and he and the state Public Utilities Commission (PUCO) led efforts for several months to reach acceptable compromises among the diverse interests.
In addition to helping current Ohio manufacturers become more productive, the legislation will attract substantial investment into the state. As developers and manufacturers of cogeneration and waste energy recovery equipment, the authors now see Ohio as one of the best states in which to do business and advance projects.
We look forward to working with the PUCO to implement the legislation, but we recognize the burden is now on us to bring forward efficient CHP and clean waste energy recovery projects. Ohio has great potential, and we believe this legislation will ensure the state rapidly climbs the ranks and becomes the nation’s leader in industrial efficiency and advanced energy.
Casten is the chief executive of Recycled Energy Development of Chicago. Philip Brennan is chief executive of Echogen, an Akron manufacturer of waste energy recovery equipment.