A post titled "The Cogeneration Stopgap" posted to The Oil Drum last week proposed an interesting way of increasing the efficiency with which natural gas is used. Essentially, homeowners or businesses would cooperate to install a cogeneration facility to provide power and heat to sets of homes. The proposal is interesting, but can you convince a lot of independently minded people to cooperate with each other for the purpose of saving energy, resources and money, but with the addition of an interdependence on their neighbors for their heat and elecricity needs?
Part of the solution described is to use heat pumps to provide heating and cooling for homes, with the only energy needed in such systems being the circulation and heat exchange components, which operate much more efficiently than a fire based force air, water or steam heating system. It also assumes that natural gas can be more efficiently used to generate electricity in a fuel cell, with the waste heat generated by the fuel cell used to provide heat to the host building and the electricity used on the premises and the extra either sold to the grid or distributed locally to neighbors to operate their heat pump.
The only way that I see such a development working well is in existing or new coop, townhouse and other dense housing arrangements, since the residents already have a higher level of integration and interdependence on their neighbors for maintenance or have existing arrangements for managing the infrastructure.