Captured waste heat from local industry in southern Poland can compete with fossil fuel plants to supply affordable heating for local homes through district heating networks, providing cleaner air and attractive financial returns for investors, according to a new study from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).
IEEFA found that the main barrier to cutting carbon emissions and local air pollution from coal-fired heat production in two cities in southern Poland was not price, profit, or economics, but political will and stable regulatory conditions for all market players and technologies, including waste heat recovery (WHR).
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 sulphur.
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 subsidised by the Polish government, via energy consumers. But WHR is much cleaner still, and at present benefits from no dedicated support schemes.
“Our research shows that the question of profits is really off the table,” said report co-author and IEEFA energy finance consultant, Gerard Wynn.
“Some fossil fuel and biomass CHP plants are profitable, many are not. Importantly, we find that fossil-free heating is also competitive and profitable. The choice now is between two profitable options, where fossil-free WHR has additional, longer-term benefits for the environment, climate and investment risk.”