With so much change in fuel sources, the power generation sector has some significant challenges to tackle
The pressure to reduce the concentration of Co2 in the atmosphere is driving a significant change in power generation management.
The combined forces of a growing source of cheaper fuel generation from renewables (solar and wind), the continuing high levels of global Co2 attributed to fossil fuel combustion of above 40% of all global emissions, along with the continued increasing demand for electricity as heat sources in buildings or in factories are being replaced from fossil burning to electricity-driven heat pumps and other equipment for greater efficiency the power generation industry is arguable undergoing a sea-change on the creation and dispatching of energy.
Emission reductions are needed across all sectors. It will be a ‘combination effect’ of coal-to-gas switching, deployment of new generation gas-fired power plants designed for hydrogen within the fuel mix and plenty of opportunities for upgrades to existing gas-fired plants.
The impact of generation through wind and solar is pointing to a future of electric or clean energy. There are also pushes for reducing power sector emissions by upgrading the transmission grids, building in storage and looking for more at reducing individual electricity consumption by for more demand-side energy management.
Demand-side energy sometimes called the first fuel or the fuel you don’t need to use, is looked at in terms of electrical intensity through more efficient methods and solutions. As appliances, LED lighting and energy-conserving measures are deployed close to or at the final consumption points of buildings or final production plants.
The proportion of electricity in final energy dramatically shifts from 19% to a technically maximum 65% of our needs. This includes the adoption of heat pumps in buildings. Electric vehicles become the vehicle of choice, and induction stoves replace many of the unhealthy cooking methods we have today (coal, wood, charcoal etc.).
The further potential for electrification, 35% of final energy, depends on breakthrough innovation in processes and fuel conversions to generate higher heat. These include Shipping, Aviation and certain high intense heat industry processes of Chemicals, Cement, Iron & Steel.
With transport having Co2 emissions running at 25%, Buildings 9% and Industry at 26%, the source of energy, its ability to perform and what it entails in changes is a massive set of individual challenges.
Today all of the Power Generation providers are looking hard at adjusting their fuel sources to accommodate (rapidly) increasing renewable alternatives. Still, the vast majority of invested assets in fossil fuel generation need to be managed as a bridge into the future. Natural Gas will be needed for the next thirty to forty years or even longer.
To modify existing plants or determine future power generation purchases, the three key points driving the thinking are 1) increase operational efficiency, 2) improve ramp rate and 3) improve reliability.
Then you have a wish list of rather objectives that need to be worked upon with OEM providers. These include adjustments and wishes into 4) improved availability, 5) increased power output on demand, 6) extend plant lifespan, and 7)improve fuel flexibility, interchanging fuels.
There is also a constant need to keep extending and securing 8) health and safety, 9) reduce cyber vulnerabilities, 10) Reduce Co2 emissions through new technology applications (CCUS), 11) Reduce other harmful gases of methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases and 12) through digitalization and other efficiency methods improve and maintain stability and maintenance.
All of these forming the wish list of power generation providers are tough, even in stable fuel markets. Still, with price/ demand volatility and the continued march of renewables and the demands for green energy, this is a very challenging set of times.
The positive point is the power industry has the technical capability and a complementary suite of solutions; if the long-term goal fixes on decarbonization with renewables and supported and complemented by natural gas power as its core strategy intent, it can manage the energy transition.
To shape power generation needs global and local understanding. Collaboration, building in increased flexibility, determining the tactics to meet the existing and future conditions and making the right power generation investments give optimization and adaptability in rapidly changing market conditions.
Conditions that are influenced by changing regulations, the balance between managing stable fuel supply and intermittency of renewables, the shift from public to private ownership, a need for cross border collaboration and exchanges and the climate pressures and commitment made locally and globally.