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Pro   Con

Cogeneration saves fuel, capital, and waste.1

Cogeneration requires little or no cooling water relative to conventional steam electric power generating systems.2

Cogeneration can add large amounts of power generating capacity to the local grid, thereby reducing utility peak capacity requirements and lowering rate increases designed to finance electrical capacity additions.3

Using cogeneration to decentralize power generating sources increases the overall reliability of grid systems, lowering distribution and transmission costs.4

Cogeneration permits greater flexibility in planning future electrical generating capacity.5

Power from cogeneration can come on-line faster than conventional power plants.6


Diesel cogeneration units have some air emission problems.7

AMA Commentary

Cogeneration is the combined production of heat and power. Its underlying principle is the use of waste energy from one energy-using process to drive another.8

In a cogeneration system, fuel is burned in a boiler to produce steam. The steam powers an electric generator and is then captured for heating, refrigerating, or other manufacturing processes. Large businesses such as petroleum refineries, wood and food processors, and steel and chemical companies purchase custom-designed cogeneration systems, using the steam for their own operations and selling excess electric power to local utilities. Smaller commercial establishments such as hospitals, restaurants, and dairy farms use smaller, packaged units.9

Cogeneration systems usually cost between $500 to $1,000 per kilowatt of electric capacity -- less than half the price of new coal or nuclear plants.10 However, the process is economical only when large and relatively constant amounts of heat are required. Technological advances may eventually make smaller systems cost-efficient.11

Cogenerators burn more cleanly than most utility power plants, but they emit some nitrogen oxides that must be scrubbed by pollution control equipment.12

By 1990, installed cogeneration capacity is projected to reach between 20,000 to 25,000 MW in the U.S. Surveys estimate that the U.S. could someday harness between 100,000 and 200,000 MW of cogenerated power -- the equivalent of one-third of current generating capacity.13

1 Gabel, op. cit., p. 184.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8 Ibid., p. 182.
9 Munson, op. cit., p. 11.
10 Ibid., pp. 11-12.
11 Flavin, Electricity's Future: The Shift to Efficiency and Small-Scale Power, op. cit., p. 33.
12 Munson, op. cit., p. 12.
13 Flavin, Electricity's Future: The Shift to Efficiency and Small-Scale Power, op. cit., pp. 33-34.