From 18 December, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) will launch a combined heat and power installation (CHP) on its campus in Etterbeek. VUB has invested €2 million in the installation. The CHP will prevent around 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and thus make a significant contribution to the university’s climate action plan.

VUB aims to be fully climate neutral by no later than 2050. To meet its environmental and climate challenges, it launched the climate action plan.

β€œThe plan ensures that our university will achieve interim targets by 2030 that are in line with what’s needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees,” says Maarten Cumps, energy coordinator at VUB. β€œOne of the actions within the framework of those goals is the installation of combined heat and power in the boiler room on campus Etterbeek. This allows us to generate about 50% of the electricity demand in Etterbeek and prevent about 1,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year. During the heating season, we will even regularly provide electricity via CHP for the entire campus.”

CHP, or cogeneration, is a power generation process that simultaneously produces electricity and heat from the same energy source and is characterised by its high energy efficiency. This CHP produces about 40% electricity and 60% residual heat, with most of the residual heat used to heat the university’s buildings in winter. In a regular gas-fired power plant, the heat created by the generation of electricity is lost to the environment through cooling towers.

This makes the overall efficiency of the CHP much higher. Moreover, VUB emits about 30-35% less CO2 per MWh of electricity generated than a modern natural gas power plant. ​

The total investment in the project is about €2 million. The payback period, which is dependent on energy prices, is estimated to be two years. The CHP unit is a Siemens machine with a capacity of 1.6 MWe, which will run for about 5,000 hours a year, generating about 6,500 MWh of electricity – or 50% of campus Etterbeek’s offtake from the grid – in the process.

On the campus in Jette, VUB receives heat from the UZ Brussel boiler room. There have been two CHPs on the site for several years, each with a capacity of 1.0 MWe.