Recycled Energy Development (RED) will reduce greenhouse gases profitably through the development and ownership of energy recycling facilities and industrial cogeneration projects. RED captures industrial waste energy to produce electricity and thermal power, often without burning any additional fuel or emitting any additional pollution. For industrial partners, RED reduces energy costs substantially, increases reliability, and offers the opportunity for emissions credits.
We recover waste energy—reducing your costs and cutting greenhouse gas emissions at the same time
RED helps manufacturers reduce energy costs and raise productivity. RED dramatically increases energy efficiency by capturing and recovering waste energy. This work frees up manufacturers’ cash, slashes greenhouse gas emissions, and boosts profits.
RED is led by the country’s most experienced energy recycling team. Over the past three decades, our principals, Tom and Sean Casten, have invested more than $2 billion in approximately 250 clean power projects that recover waste energy.
The business opportunity
Businesses that consume a lot of power usually emit significant amounts of waste energy. Manufacturers like steel mills and wall board makers, for example, produce substantial amounts of excess heat. RED takes this heat and converts it into clean electricity, processed steam, or other useful energy. Even processes that generate energy as a byproduct, such as natural gas pipeline pressure drops or industrial gas flares, can yield big benefits. Our job is to squeeze every possible drop of energy out of industrial processes—dramatically improving efficiency and reducing costs.
Through RED’s approach to energy efficiency—which includes techniques such as waste heat recovery and combined heat and power (CHP, also known as cogeneration)—manufacturers can cut energy costs substantially, which boosts their competitiveness and reduces their production costs. In addition, energy recycling improves reliability, since on-site generation decreases manufacturers’ dependence on the outdated and blackout-prone electric grid.
For industrialists, RED reduces costs without compromising a company’s core business. Through an open-book partnership, we’ll pay cash for manufacturers’ existing boilers and other energy equipment. We’ll then recover waste energy and heat to make electricity and steam, which industrialists will use to run their business or we’ll jointly sell to others. They will also be able to sell carbon credits by decreasing pollution—an opportunity that will only become more valuable in an increasingly carbon-constrained world.
Along the way, RED will provide manufacturers with all of the equipment, financial capital, and services associated with energy recycling, including development, financing, engineering, installation, and long-term operation.
The environmental opportunity
By increasing energy efficiency, RED’s work slashes greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling industrial waste energy thereby enables RED to tackle a major challenge of our time—global warming—while reducing energy costs for our customers. As the following graph shows, recycled energy is a big improvement on other energy options.
At the same time, recycled power is far cheaper than virtually any other method of generating energy.
In sum, RED offers manufacturers an opportunity to recover waste energy and start reaping profits—doing well while also doing good.
We strive to reduce greenhouse emissions with energy recycling and CHP generation projects
Three facts motivate our work. First, to increase industrial productivity and cut manufacturing costs, we need to stop wasting energy. Second, to effectively tackle climate change we must improve the way we generate heat and power since they account for two-thirds of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions. Third, energy waste is pervasive, as evidenced by the average U.S. electricity plant throwing away two-thirds of the fuel it burns.
Capturing waste energy is a fairly simple concept. In fact, Thomas Edison recycled energy at his early power plants, using waste heat to warm nearby buildings and unknowingly reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Today’s potential for energy recycling is staggering, as evidenced by government studies showing the country has enough recoverable waste energy to generate 20 percent of our electricity, without burning fuel or emitting pollution. Yet as the video below explains, several policy barriers stand in the way of capturing this clean and efficient energy.
Isn’t it time we think outside the box to eliminate those barriers in order to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and save consumers money? Here are a few ideas.
Create markets and watch clean energy flourish
Probably the biggest barrier to clean energy development is the lack of markets. Utility monopolies traditionally blocked independent generators from competing with their own power plants, even if the utilities’ facilities were more expensive and polluting. Congress tackled this problem in 1978 with the passage of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) and many states responded with policies that launched aggressive growth of renewables and cogeneration. The concept was simple – clean energy projects should be able to compete with traditional generators and receive power purchase contracts equal to what a utility would pay to generate and deliver its own electricity.
PURPA’s influence, unfortunately, waned in the 1990s, largely because of continued utility opposition and the growth of wholesale-power suppliers not focused on renewables or cogeneration. Yet the challenge of creating markets for clean power remains. Without such markets, opportunities to cut costs and lower pollution are being lost.
An alternative approach is a Clean Energy Standard Offer Program – or CESOP – that would encourage private investment in clean energy projects and ensure energy consumers can access clean, cheap power. Ontario recently adopted a CESOP, and California is taking a similar approach with its Waste Heat and Carbon Emissions Reduction Act (AB 1613), which provides standardized contracts (or feed-in tariffs) for efficient cogeneration projects. Utilities lobbied hard against the provision, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2010 endorsed California’s feed-in tariff and encouraged other states to provide technology-specific long-term contracts for clean power.
Create markets and watch pollution disappear
Rather than tackle climate change by government picking technology winners (nuclear reactors for some, wind turbines for others), a more efficient approach would set a single standard for emissions and have clean power producer sell their allowances directly to polluters. Over time, polluters would go away and clean energy providers of all kinds prosper. All the government needs to do is lower the emission targets each year.
Critically, an effective market regime should measure emissions by output, tracking the amount of pollution that’s emitted for every unit of energy that’s produced. Efficiency would be rewarded, inefficiency penalized. Today’s pollution measurements, unfortunately, are based on inputs – the amount of pollution per unit of fuel burned. Strangely enough, the more fuel you burn, the easier it is to meet the government’s standards. As a result, efficiency is actually penalized. Switching to output-based measurements would change the incentives to which energy producers respond.
Cooperate (rather than fight) with utilities
Utility monopolies traditionally have viewed independent CHP developers as taking away their customers and sales, prompting these power companies to impose an array of barriers to cogeneration. Most regulatory systems, in fact, reward utilities for building their own facilities and discourage sales from independent generators. Having been frustrated for years by utility opposition, a few CHP developers and a few utility executives have been negotiating an alternative approach that would provide a win-win for both parties.
Recognize distributed generation’s “ancillary benefits”
CHP projects tend to be located near where their electricity is used, thereby avoiding the line losses associated with distant coal-fired units or nuclear reactors. Cogeneration projects also tend to operate continuously, thereby avoiding the need for backup power supplies associated with intermittent solar collectors or wind turbines. At the same time, CHP units enhance the power grid’s reliability, providing what is known as frequency regulation. Unfortunately, these cogeneration projects receive no reward for such benefits. That’s beginning to change as RED and others encourage the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to create a robust market for these ancillary services.
Recognize CHP as a pollution prevention option
Dirty power plants have avoided most of the costs associated with their pollution, placing those clean-up and health-care expenses on the general public. Yet the Clean Air Act and recent court rulings have pushed the Environmental Protection Agency to change the rules and require polluters to internalize some of their costs. Because of comments by RED and others, EPA is beginning to recognize efficient CHP and clean waste energy recovery as pollution prevention mechanisms, allowing them to be paid for the environmental benefits they provide.
Understanding combined heat and power, also known as cogeneration
What is combined heat and power (CHP)?
The first step to understanding CHP is to know what it is not. The typical U.S. power plant is only about 33 percent efficient, using three units of fuel to produce one unit of electricity. The rest gets turned into waste energy, mainly heat that’s vented into the atmosphere. Most plants can’t recycle this heat because they’re located remotely, far from consumers, and heat cannot travel far before turning cold. This kind of energy production—called “central” generation—is the dominant way of making power in the U.S.
Combined heat and power turns these numbers on their head, providing what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calls “an efficient, clean, and reliable approach to generating electricity and heat energy from a single fuel source.” The key is that cogeneration plants generate energy on site at manufacturing facilities and other large institutions. That enables these plants to recycle their waste heat into clean electricity and useful steam, which can be used to warm nearby buildings or to assist various industrial processes.
Instead of throwing away two-thirds of the energy, combined heat and power plants utilize two-thirds or more of the energy they have at their disposal. Essentially, they do two jobs (generating heat and generating electricity) with one fire.
“By installing a CHP system designed to meet the thermal and electrical base loads of a facility,” the EPA says, “CHP can greatly increase the facility’s operational efficiency and decrease energy costs.”
What is waste heat recovery?
Waste heat recovery is combined heat and power’s sister technology. Like combined heat and power, it turns excess heat into clean electricity and useful steam. The difference is that it captures the waste heat a manufacturer is already emitting rather than providing all of the energy from scratch.
Here’s how it works. A “waste heat recovery boiler” contains a series of fluid-filled tubes placed throughout the area where heat is released. When high-temperature heat meets those tubes, a vapor (traditionally steam) is produced, which in turn powers a turbine that creates electricity. This process is similar to that of other fired boilers, but in this case, waste heat replaces a traditional flame as the initial source of energy. No fossil fuels are used in this process. Metals, glass, pulp and paper, silicon and other production plants are typical locations where waste heat recovery can be effective.
What is the potential for energy recycling?
A 2007 Department of Energy study found untapped potential for 135,000 megawatts of combined heat and power in the U.S. Meanwhile, a Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory study identified another 64,000 megawatts that could be obtained from industrial waste energy recycling, not counting CHP. Together, these two forms of energy recycling could provide 40 percent of total U.S. electricity needs.
Widespread use of energy recycling could cut U.S. greenhouse gas pollution by an estimated 20 percent. As of 2005, about 42 percent of U.S. emissions came from the production of electricity and 27 percent from the production of heat. Achieving greater efficiency in these areas is thus crucial to curbing climate change.