Natural Gas Power Plants in a Transitioning Energy Market
John D. Siciliano
Posted November 26, 2019
The transition to cleaner natural gas-fueled electricity generation is creating new momentum for building out the nation’s energy infrastructure – specifically, new pipeline capacity needed to accelerate the changeover from coal and other older resources.
Not doing so has proven to be detrimental to consumers and clean energy goals alike.
At the same time, utilities are building newer, more efficient combined-cycle natural gas power plants that produce 50% less carbon dioxide than coal, while eliminating other pollutants associated with coal. The new state-of-the art gas-fueled power plants use less acreage than a coal or nuclear plant, while generating roughly equivalent amounts of electricity.
Some of these natural gas plants also offer the first glimpses of what a commercially viable zero-emission power plant would look like, as North Carolina-based Net Power takes the first steps to develop a natural gas plant that is carbon neutral. See the latest developments as reported by Bloomberg here.
In addition to new innovations, natural gas-fueled plants are also key to bringing more renewables online.
Because natural gas plants are able to throttle power output up-and-down quickly -- unlike a coal or nuclear plant -- it makes them the only utility-scale source of power to complement the ebb and flow of electricity output from solar and wind. This means the electricity grid will continue to require natural gas to facilitate the growth of renewable power.
In fact, natural gas will continue to be the dominant form of electric power generation in the United States in 2020 -- rising to nearly 40% of total U.S. electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. And with this rise in natural gas power we’ve seen reduced energy-derived CO2 emissions, which have fallen to their lowest levels in a generation.
For policymakers, these market changes mean electricity should be free of policies that artificially inhibit the use of highly efficient natural gas.
Shortsightedness when it comes to the role of natural gas in the U.S. will only harm consumers – with potential cost impacts as we’ve seen in New York and New England – and impede the push for a cleaner environment.
About The Author
John Siciliano is a writer for API Global Industry Services’ Marketing and Communications Department. He joined API after 14 years as an energy and environment reporter and editor. Most recently, he was senior energy and environment writer for the Washington Examiner and the Daily on Energy newsletter. He began full-time reporting in Washington in 2001 as a foreign affairs correspondent, also covering national security and defense. His coverage of the Mideast and Saudi Arabia led him to become a full-time energy reporter. He earned a bachelors degree in psychology from Ohio Northern University, and he also holds a Masters of Science degree in education from the Franciscan University of Steubenville.