Many are rightly celebrating the recent passage of a bill that aims to move Virginia’s power grid into the 21st century. Yet one of the most progressive measures in the bill relies on some of the oldest electrical technology around – harkening back to Thomas Edison’s very first power plant. I think that’s a good thing.
The Grid Transformation and Security Act – which promises to lower utility bills, increase investments in energy efficiency and renewables, and restore oversight of electric utility rates in the Commonwealth – requires Virginia’s largest utility (Dominion Energy) to consider combined heat and power, or CHP, in its future resource plans. CHP has been around as a clean energy option since at least the 19th century, when Edison first recognized that conventional power plants produce an enormous amount of heat in generating electricity, and typically waste that heat by venting it to the air. CHP captures that heat instead, and puts it to good use in buildings and manufacturing plants, providing energy, economic, and environmental advantages over conventional power plants, and doubling the efficiency of the plant.
For years, Virginia’s utilities overlooked CHP. According to the latest scorecardfrom the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Virginia scored 0 out of 4 points for its CHP policies, highlighting the lack of effort to encourage this important technology.