Extreme Weather and the Case for Cogeneration

Climate change presents new and challenging realities for the Canadian economy, throwing into sharp focus the importance of contingency planning and climate adaptation. Is your organization doing all it can to mitigate the potential impact of weather-related damage to your operations?

The Insurance Bureau of Canada reports that, in the twenty-five-year period leading up to 2008, annual insurable catastrophic losses due to weather averaged $400 million in Canada. For each of the following four years, losses averaged $1 billion. In 2013 alone, catastrophic losses due to severe weather hit $3.2 billion!

Forecasters will need a new way to describe fifty-year and one hundred-year weather events as these become more frequent. In 2013, a storm system along the Atlantic coast dumped 60cm of snow, becoming an historic weather event for the Maritimes. Alberta’s super flood covered one-quarter of the province and deluged the heart of Calgary. It has been described as the most disruptive flood in Canadian history. Toronto’s July flooding was the most expensive in Ontario’s history, with the power system reported to be ‘hanging by a thread’. The December ice storm in central and eastern Canada and the northeast US left almost one million people without power for days. Are these one-offs or are they trends? Will extreme weather be the new normal?

In terms of corporate infrastructure and system resilience, it doesn’t really matter why the weather is changing – the key to being prepared is simply to acknowledge that it is changing. Municipalities are struggling to manage aging infrastructure and to build in resilience. That day is not here yet, which points to the importance of having plans and infrastructure in place to maintain power and productivity under emergency conditions.

Most firms do not ‘pre-fund’ measures to mitigate weather-related losses until after they have experienced a catastrophic emergency. What are you doing to protect your company’s operations? What is your firm’s disaster response plan? What would it look like if you didn’t have to worry about power supply? Don’t resign yourself to ‘writing off and rebuilding’ when you can plan and prepare.

“Everybody talks about the weather,
but nobody does anything about it.”
Mark Twain

“Not true!”
HH Angus

You can protect your operational infrastructure and build in resilience with a ‘behind the meter’ power solution: cogeneration. HH Angus has been engineering cogeneration plants for almost two decades – for municipal, commercial and industrial groups, institutional campuses, and healthcare campuses.

If your processes, manufacturing or products would be at risk during power interruptions, outages or brownouts due to natural disasters or failures of an aging power system infrastructure, an appropriate solution could be natural gas-powered cogeneration. It provides both economic and insurance advantages. Cogeneration can be used both as primary power for base load needs and to provide an emergency back-up to the grid. In addition to electricity, cogeneration provides a year-round heat source for processing and manufacturing, as well as occupancy heating in winter and absorption chillers for cooling in summer.

Energy efficiency on the grid is generally in the mid-30s percentage. With cogeneration, also called combined heat and power (CHP), efficiency can be improved to at least 80%, because it simultaneously generates electricity and captures waste heat for productive use. This is why distributed generation plants, whether municipal or private, have a role to play in the green economy.

With advances in renewable energy technology, multiple power generation sources are coming onto the grid, particularly solar, wind and biogas (which HH Angus also designs). And while natural gas-powered cogeneration isn’t renewable power, it is considered a more attractive option than diesel power plants. (Cogeneration plants can also be powered with biogas). Diesel, the fuel typically used for emergency back-up power, has inherent disadvantages: on-site storage is subject to stringent regulation; burning it contributes to global warming; and leaking diesel can contaminate ground water. With natural gas-powered cogeneration, storage risks are fewer and the contribution to greenhouse gases is lower.

For more information, contact HH Angus at 416.443.8200, Roger Simpson, or David Angelo,

HH Angus Publications on Globe 2014