Cogeneration Technology Adoption in the U.S.

Posted: 27 Jun 2016

See all articles by Mary Li

Mary Li

University of Chicago - Department of Economics

Date Written: June 01, 2016


Well over half of all electricity generated in recent years in Denmark is through cogeneration. In U.S., however, this number is only roughly eight percent. While both the federal and state governments provided regulatory incentives for more cogeneration adoption, the capacity added in the past five years have been the lowest since late 1970s. My goal is to first understand what are and their relative importance of the factors that drive cogeneration technology adoption, with an emphasis on estimating the elasticity of adoption with respect to relative energy input prices and regulatory factors. Very preliminary results show that with a 1 cent increase in purchased electricity price from 6 cents (roughly current average) to 7 cents per kwh, the likelihood of cogeneration technology adoption goes up by about 0.7-1 percent. Then I will try to address the general equilibrium effect of cogeneration adoption in the electricity generation sector as a whole and potentially estimate some key parameters that the social planner would need to determine the optimal cogeneration investment amount. Partial equilibrium setting does not consider the decrease in investment in the utilities sector when facing competition from the distributed electricity generators, and therefore ignore the effects from the change in equilibrium price of electricity. The competitive market equilibrium setting does not consider the externality in the reduction of CO2 emissions, and leads to socially sub-optimal investment in cogeneration. If we were to achieve the national goal to increase cogeneration capacity half of the current capacity by 2020, the US Department of Energy (DOE) estimated an annual reduction of 150 million metric tons of CO2 annually – equivalent to the emissions from over 25 million cars. This is about five times the annual carbon reduction from deregulation and consolidation in the US nuclear power industry (Davis, Wolfram 2012). Although the DOE estimates could be an overly optimistic estimate, it nonetheless suggests the large potential in the adoption of cogeneration technology.

Suggested Citation

Li, Mary, Cogeneration Technology Adoption in the U.S. (June 01, 2016). US Census Bureau Center for Economic Studies Paper No. CES-WP-16-30, Available at SSRN:

Mary Li (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1126 E. 59th St
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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