Insights from Bob Perciasepe’s Keynote Address at the CHP Alliance 2020 Summit

Oct 27, 2020


By: Jen Derstine, Vice President of Marketing and Distribution, Capstone Turbine Corp.

At the CHP Alliance’s 2020 Summit, Capstone Turbine was proud to sponsor a keynote presentation on Combined Heat and Power (CHP)’s Role in Deep Decarbonization given by Bob Perciasepe. As current President of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) and in his numerous public service roles in city, state, and federal government, Perciasepe has long been focused on addressing our energy and climate challenges through public and private sector collaboration. Bob’s remarks focused on how CHP remains a necessary part of a viable stepwise pathway to decarbonization in the United States.

During his presentation, Perciasepe spoke about the layer cake of complementary policies needed to meet the challenge of keeping global average temperatures from rising more than 1.5° C to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. There is no single policy that will be the solution. However, using fuel in a more efficient way and finding more efficient processes are critical pieces. CHP is exactly that – using fuel efficiently to produce both power and usable heat.

Perciasepe also addressed the work C2ES is doing with the business community as they believe both government and the private sector must work together to reduce global emissions. We are already seeing more frequent and destructive weather events, which are costing the United States half a trillion dollars per year. The business community recognizes that they have to take action to mitigate and be resilient to climate change. We can’t afford to not be reality-based. CHP is a tool that can help businesses be both more efficient in their use of energy and resilient in the face of these more frequent, broader grid disruptions.

In fact, Perciasepe noted that the industrial sector is one of the toughest areas for emissions reductions. He reminded us that emissions are not produced only through what externally powers a facility, but also from the manufacturing process itself – in making plastic, glass, paper, and more. In the United States, 22% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the industrial sector, not including emissions from power generation for those industrial sites. Key to many of these processes is the use of heat. For this, CHP is perhaps one of the most practical, best fit solutions available today.

During the Q&A portion, Perciasepe was asked about what the CHP industry could do to demonstrate to others that CHP is part of the solution – both to opponents of any natural gas use and to electric utilities fighting customer transitions to onsite power. Perciasepe spoke about the need for the CHP industry to address how CHP will continue to lower emissions in the future. He suggested that to demonstrate that CHP is part of the decarbonization pathway, the industry must clearly advocate for steps like fuel switching from fossil fuels to renewable fuels or hydrogen, or integration with carbon capture technologies.

Several panels addressed these topics during the summit, but policy again plays an important role here to encourage more R&D, demonstrate and deploy these technology innovations and to incentivize the transition. And, in the case of utilities, Perciasepe noted that the push for electric vehicles and building electrification is providing a growth in demand for grid power. At the same time, meeting grid emissions reduction goals has required closer management of variable resources to address resiliency concerns. If electric utilities are not convinced this load is coming, again consistent federal policy will help.

Based on Perciasepe’s presentation, it is clear that no one technology, policy, or entity can solve the climate issue themselves. We all need to work together. We need clear and consistent policies, incentives, and price signals. We need private sector commitment to emissions reductions. And, we need an all-of-the-above approach to energy sources and solutions, including CHP, with a clear pathway to a carbon neutral future.

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