Probably the least understood major climate solution is the simultaneous generation of both electricity and heat, called cogeneration, or combined heat and power (CHP) or recyled energy. You can read the basics here.
I have proposed one “stabilization wedge” of CHP (here). Some people, like my friend Tom Casten of Recycled Energy, think it could be multiple wedges. He is probably right — when you consider that the energy now lost as waste heat just from U.S. power generation exceeds the energy used by Japan for all purposes.
We could take the 42 percent of carbon dioxide that comes from electricity and cut it in half and save $70 billion.
Here is the core idea behind cogen.
By generating electricity and capturing the waste heat in a cogeneration system, we can avoid the energy wasted by generating electricity and heat separately, cutting pollution sharply. Overall system efficiencies can exceed 80 percent. Since cogen typically generates its power near the end user, powerline losses, which can easily reach 7% to 8% of the delivered electricity, an be all but eliminated. Total greenhouse gas emissions can be cut in sharply.
Many studies have shown that the potential market for cogen is enormous. For instance, a 2000 study for DOE (here) found that the market potential for combined heat and power at commercial and institutional facilities alone was 75,000 megawatts, about one-tenth of current U.S. power generation capacity. The remaining potential in the industrial sector is about 88,000 megawatts.