On August 5, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), introduced The Thermal Energy and Efficiency Act of 2009 (S.1621) . The bill would set a goal of producing 20 percent or more of U.S. electric power from highly efficient combined heat and power and district energy systems by the year 2030, up from about nine percent today. The bill would allocate two percent of the revenues generated through a future cap and trade program, which is now being considered in separate climate legislation.
Much of the energy used today to produce electric power – 60 percent or more - is wasted up the chimney. Combined heat and power (CHP) systems capture much of the wasted heat to provide space heating and cooling, hot water, and industrial process heat, in addition to electric power, achieving overall energy efficiencies of 60 percent or higher. Making electric power production much more energy efficient in this way will help reduce overall energy demand, reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly, save consumers and taxpayers money over the long run, and create thousands of permanent jobs across the United States. Introducing the bill, Senator Sanders observed that CHP is “a fully developed technology, and there is nothing experimental about it.”