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Waste Heat Recovery (WHR) can be a clean, sustainable and profitable alternative to coal-fired combined heat & power (CHP) plants for district heating in Poland

Arjun Flora's picture
Energy Finance Analyst Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis
  • Member since 2020
  • 1 items added with 3,158 views
  • Jun 29, 2020
  • 3158 views

Waste heat recovered from local industry and wastewater in southern Poland can compete with fossil fuel plants to supply affordable heating for local buildings through district heating networks, providing cleaner air and attractive financial returns for investors, according to a recent IEEFA study.

Three-quarters of all heat for district heating supplied in Poland is produced from burning coal. Such heat production is associated with massive carbon emissions and local air pollution, including dust and toxic oxides of nitrogen and sulfur. 

Burning coal, gas and biomass in combined heat and power (CHP) plants is a cleaner way to produce heat than burning coal, wood and plastic waste in people’s homes, and for that reason CHP plants are very generously subsidized by the Polish government, via energy consumers. But WHR is much cleaner still, yet at present benefits from no dedicated support schemes. Using WHR for district heating, for example by recovering heat from wastewater/sewage, is well-established in Scandinavia, and Polish policymakers could draw on these lessons to implement similar technologies in Poland.

In this study we took two existing coal-fired CHP plants in South Poland (currently owned by Czech utility, CEZ) and analyzed alternative 'Close-Not-Sell' scenarios, estimating project returns and profitability if the plants were sold and 'sweated' vs if they were closed and replaced with biomass-fired or gas-fired CHP plants, or with a WHR portfolio (comprising 'untapped' heat from local wastewater treatment and steel plants). Our results showed that, from a purely financial perspective: biomass was not competitive, despite generous subsidies - coal and gas were both profitable but highly exposed to carbon and other price risks - and WHR was profitable, lower risk and as yet unsubsidized by the Polish government.

https://ieefa.org/ieefa-europe-recovered-waste-heat-rwh-a-cost-effective-source-of-clean-energy/

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 29, 2020

Burning coal, gas and biomass in combined heat and power (CHP) plants is a cleaner way to produce heat than burning coal, wood and plastic waste in people’s homes, and for that reason CHP plants are very generously subsidized by the Polish government, via energy consumers. But WHR is much cleaner still, yet at present benefits from no dedicated support schemes. Using WHR for district heating, for example by recovering heat from wastewater/sewage, is well-established in Scandinavia, and Polish policymakers could draw on these lessons to implement similar technologies in Poland.

Not to imagine the geopolitical ramifications of Poland remaining so dependent on coal, especially when compared with the rest of the continent. WHR is another way to help wean off that influence

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