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CHP cannot complain of a lack of encouragement. "The Federal Government supports cogeneration," explained Uwe Beckmeyer, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) in October. "A combined generation of electricity and heat is efficient," stated Beckmeyer at a congress hosted by the German Cogeneration Association (B.KWK) in Berlin. Thanks to a high efficiency of around 90 percent – 60 thermal, 30 percent electric – CHP saves fuel and reduces carbon emissions.

The German government has therefore formulated a clear goal in its coalition agreement:

"We want to define the legal and financial conditions for environmentally friendly cogeneration in such a way that the percentage of CHP increases to 25 percent by 2020."

Spokespersons from all parliamentary groups in the Bundestag expressed support for the 25 percent goal this autumn. However, under current conditions it cannot be achieved.

In a CHP study for BMWi Prognos along with Fraunhofer IFAM, Fraunhofer IREES and BHKW Consult predicts that "at current market conditions, CHP power generation by 2020 (…) will stagnate at today’s levels." The goal of 25 percent CHP power would be "missed by a significant margin."

Currently CHP accounts for a 16.2 percent share of net electricity production in Germany. Fully half comes from general supply plants and about one third from industry.

In order to achieve the 25 percent goal, annual CHP power generation must increase by 50 billion kWh by 2020. According to Prognos, this would necessitate a significant increase in subsidies under the CHP Act. The industrial sector also needs to make better use of its CHP potential. "The relatively good return on investment of the various CHP systems is very positive for the continued expansion of cogeneration in those sectors that have high growth potential," according to Prognos. However, in vehicle and mechanical engineering and other "new" industrial sectors, awareness of the advantages of CHP and CCHP is "not very widespread."

In contrast, a trend that is taking hold in industry is the use of waste heat for power generation – Prognos estimates its potential at between 0.7 TWh to 1.5 TWh per year. The advantage is that converting heat using steam turbines or with the aid of ORC (Organic Rancine Cycle) technology enables plant operators to reduce their dependence on energy prices.

Combined cooling, heat and power (CCHP) is also gaining more supporters. It is suitable for industrial processes that require both heat and cold at the same time, and to cool servers at data centers. Through the development of effective power and heat storage plants, CHP can become a partner for renewable energies. The union of regenerative and/or CHP plants to create virtual power plants can play a role in the energy transition to renewables.

Virtual power plants and storage units are among the trending topics at Energy 2015. This leading global trade show for energy and environmental technologies at HANNOVER MESSE presents new products and services for converting energy systems. With more than 40 manufacturers of CHP and CCHP systems as well as providers of efficiency services (contracting) the Decentralized Energy Supply joint stand is a highlight at the Energy trade fair.