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GE claim natural gas will be leading power generation fuel until 2040

06/12/2018
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A report by GE Power claims that natural gas will overtake coal as the no.1 power generation technology by 2025, and hold on to the position until at least 2040. 

GE's newest gas turbine is an investment in what they're latest report claims will be the leading fuel from 2025 until at least 2040
(GE's newest HA gas turbine - image via GE)

The report incorporates the latest New Policies Scenario from the International Energy Agency’s recent World Energy Outlook, and was presented at Power-Gen International, an annual energy-industry summit held earlier this week in Orlando. 

The global energy company’s predictions state that the structure of the power industry will shift from one based primarily on central generation resources to a hybrid system comprising both centralised and distributed resources.

They highlight “digital innovations pushing us towards a more efficient and autonomous grid, in which generation and transmission and distribution (T&D) are optimized in real time”, as well as the global adoption of zero and low carbon power sources to reduce the effects of climate change. 

What they seem to stress is not a world run entirely on renewables, but one in which these technologies work in combination with fossil fuel systems, with natural gas being the bridge between the two. 

Based on data from the IEA, the report claims that natural gas, solar power and wind power will provide the majority of new global supply, with over 1,500 gigawatts of gas-fired generation capacity expected to be added to global power networks by 2040. 

It says: “Amidst the grand transformation, existing and new gas-fired plants will play an increasingly important role in maintaining reliable, low cost and sustainable electric power around the globe. The fact is that natural gas-fired plants have key features and capabilities that make both centralized and distributed gas power the centerpiece of transformed electric power networks around the world.”

The key reasons it gives for this domination of natural gas are: 

  • Sustainability - Natural gas have the lowest CO2 emissions of all fossil fuels.
  • Generation flexibility - Natural gas fired generators can be started up rapidly or turned down to low levels when required. This flexibility allows them to work in tandem with renewables - increasing to meet demand when solar or wind aren’t delivering.
  • Low capital costs - The ability to upgrade existing assets, along with the relatively low up-front costs of gas-fired generators makes the fuel financially suitable for global expansion.
  • Natural resource efficiency - Gas is the most land efficient power generation source, requiring 50-100 times less space per MWh generated than a renewable or battery storage system. It also uses four times less water than coal-fired plants and is more fuel efficient.
  • Right-sized and rapid deployment - Gas fired generation can range massively in size. A 30MW simple cycle power plant can be transported by land, sea or air to remote locations and can generate power in a matter of weeks. A large combined cycle power plant can be commissioned in just 2-3 years. That’s 1-2 years faster than a comparably sized coal plant and 3-4 years faster than a comparably sized nuclear plant.

Because of these many benefits, natural gas has already grown significantly in recent years. The report demonstrates that companies such as GE are not expecting this growth to slow down any time soon and that even with increased pressure to focus on renewables, future power will still be run at least partially on gas.

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