Release: Sanders Introduces Thermal Energy Legislation

WASHINGTON, August 7 - Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced legislation Wednesday to support clean energy infrastructure for thermal energy and combined heat and power projects.  Sanders, a member of both the Senate energy and environment committees, introduced the Thermal Energy Efficiency Act (S.1621) with original co-sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). 

Below, please find a brief summary of the legislation and the pent-up demand for thermal energy infrastructure.  Also, you will find a statement by Sen. Sanders submitted into the Congressional Record upon introduction of this legislation.
This legislation would dedicate 2% of revenues from climate change legislation to fund combined heat and power, waste energy recovery, and district energy projects. Based on various estimates, this could mean roughly between $1 billion and $1.5 billion per year for clean energy infrastructure.   The Thermal Energy Efficiency Act would provide 40% of its funding for institutional entities (defined as public or non-profit hospitals, local and state governments, school districts and higher education facilities, tribal governments, municipal utilities, or their designees), 40% for commercial and industrial entities, and 20% to be used in the discretion of the Secretary of Energy to fund institutional entity projects, commercial and industrial projects, or federal facility projects. A match is required of all non-federal applicants, starting at 25% from 2012-2017, and rising to 50% from 2018-2050.   The breakdown of how the money would be used is 75% for construction of infrastructure, 15% for planning, engineering, and feasibility studies, and the remaining 10% to be used at the discretion of the Secretary for either infrastructure or planning, depending on the need.
Thermal energy and combined heat and power (CHP) offer a huge opportunity for efficiency and emissions reduction using today’s technology. CHP can be used with a variety of fuel sources, including coal, natural gas, geothermal, biomass, oil, and waste.
According to the Department of Energy, moving from having 9% of our electric power as CHP today to 20% by 2030 would:

  • avoid 60% of our projected increase in carbon dioxide emissions (equivalent to taking half of all passenger vehicles in the U.S. today off the road),
  • create more than 1 million new jobs, and
  • leverage new investments of $234 billion.

In order to achieve this, however, we need to increase long-term funding support for these systems. DOE has a stimulus-related funding application for $156 million for CHP, waste energy, and district energy. They have received 359 applications for projects valued at $9.2 billion. This represents a 25 to 1 ratio in terms of funding need to federal funding available. Based on the federal match, this shows that additional federal funding could leverage billions in state, local, and private sector dollars if more federal funding was available.  
Senator Sanders’ Office has worked with the International District Energy Association, the Biomass Energy Resource Center, the American Council for An Energy-Efficient Economy, The United States Clean Heat and Power Association, Sustainable Northwest, and Recycled Energy Development.

Statement by Sen. Bernie Sanders from Congressional Record on August 6, 2009
Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, today I am pleased to introduce the Thermal Energy Efficiency Act, which I believe can play an important role in moving our Nation toward green job creation and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. I thank Senator MERKLEY for being an original cosponsor on this bill. I also thank the International District Energy Association, the Biomass Energy Resource Center, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Sustainable Northwest, and the U.S. Clean Heat and Power Association for working with us to ensure that as we consider comprehensive global warming legislation, we do not forget about energy efficiency and thermal energy.
   This legislation addresses two ways of producing and distributing thermal energy, which is a technical term for heat. The legislation focuses on combined heat and power and district energy. Combined heat and power is simple to understand and has great capacity to transform our use of energy and increase large-scale efficiency. It is a fully developed technology, and there is nothing experimental about it. Combined heat and power means that one source of energy can produce electricity and then capture and use the resulting heat for a second purpose: heating homes, schools, offices, and factories. Combined heat and power gets both heat and power from one energy source and can work with fossil fuels or biomass or even waste. Combined heat and power can offer huge efficiency gains and lower carbon footprints for our powerplants.
   District energy can be used together with combined heat and power, or separate from it, in systems designed purely for heating. What district energy does is use heat not just for one building or location but for multiple locations. Just as homes or businesses share electric lines or telephone lines, they can also share a heat source. And sharing a heat source can often be a major source of efficiency.
   For too long, Federal energy policy has not focused enough on thermal energy or energy efficiency. We know we can do more. According to the Department of Energy, combined heat and power represents roughly 9 percent of our existing electric power capacity today, but if we moved to 20 percent by 2030, we could avoid 60 percent of the projected growth in carbon dioxide emissions in this country, equivalent to taking more than half of the current passenger vehicles off the road in the United States. Additionally, we could create 1 million new jobs and generate $234 billion in new investments.
   We are talking about real technology that is deployable today. In Copenhagen, district energy provides clean heating to 97 percent of the city. In our own country, in St. Paul, MN, district energy and combined heat and power provide 65 megawatts of thermal energy and 25 megawatts of electricity from renewable urban wood waste. Jamestown, NY, started their district heating project in 1981, and today the system provides 16 megawatts of thermal energy heating. Jamestown's public school district uses district energy and has saved more than 16 percent of their energy use over a 30-month period and saved more than $500,000 dollars for taxpayers in the process.
   We have opportunities to expand this technology all around our Nation. For example, in my home State of Vermont, several of our cities and towns are looking at district energy. In Burlington, VT, we have 50 megawatt powerplant that uses wood chips and wood waste for power. Yet approximately 60 percent of the energy produced by this plant is lost as wasted heat. This is typical of many conventional power plants. If Burlington implemented a district energy system it could use the wasted thermal energy to heat and cool many buildings downtown. The hurdle for Burlington, and many cities and towns, is the upfront capital investment required to build a district energy system.
   That is why today I am introducing the Thermal Energy Efficiency Act. We need a stable, long-term funding source for district energy and combined heat and power. This bill would use 2 percent of the revenues derived from auctioning emissions permits under global warming legislation to support hospitals, cities and towns, schools and universities, businesses and industries, and even Federal facilities and military bases as they implement efficient thermal energy systems.
   This bill would recognize the important role that efficiency and thermal energy can play in helping our Nation meet our energy security, emissions reduction, and economic goals. As a member of both the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee, I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that combined heat and power and district energy are included in comprehensive energy and global warming legislation.