From the National Resources Defense Council
“Beneficial electrification,” a new catchphrase in the energy world, refers to the growing recognition that using clean electricity to keep our homes and businesses running is cheaper, greener, and a smarter way to meet our energy needs.
Essentially, using electricity to power end-uses that used to require fossil fuels is a straight-forward way to reduce pollution and GHG emissions, if the electricity is generated by wind, solar, or hydro plants. With the 2C deadline approaching in less than 20 years, it seems obvious that beneficial electrification will be one important strategy to reduce emissions and avoid climate catastrophe.
Combined heat and power (CHP)
However, another emissions-reducing strategy is CHP, which uses a single system to generate both heat and electricity. Generally this involves a natural gas- or diesel-burning electric generator which uses the otherwise "waste heat" for things like water heating, space heating, or process heat -- things which would normally have their own separate heat source.
By combining the systems, total efficiency can be boosted from 45% to as high as 80% (source), representing a huge opportunity to reduce emissions.
These two seperate strategies for reducing emisisons would seem to be at odds -- one aims to stop burning any fuel, the other improves efficiency by changing where the fuel is burned. But is there a role for CHP in an all-electric (or even more-electric) future? Or should research and incentive funding for CHP systems instead be channeled to electrification?