Improving the Competitiveness of Next Generation Coal-Fired Plants
AUTHOR: David H. Scott
DATE: September 2001
The liberalisation of electric power generation is producing a more competitive environment which, sooner or later, may undermine research and development in the industry and be detrimental to security of electricity supply and to price stability through a loss of fuel diversity.
Currently, the low construction cost, short construction time and the high efficiency of plants based on natural gas combined cycle make it difficult for coal-fired units to complete. This is leading to a loss of fuel diversity as anew units tip the balance of fuel consumption more and more towards gas. In the longer term, rising and volatile natural gas prices may make coal fired units more competitive and they may act to stabilise electricity prices that might otherwise become excessive. However, this long term role for coal is contingent on the availability at th time of clean, efficient next-generation coal-fired plants. Pulverised coal fired boilers, circulating fluidised bed boilers and integrated gasification combined cycle are all technologies that could help to fill this need but further development is required.
If the effect of liberalisation is to transfer wealth from electricity generators to their customers then the former will be less able to support social objectives such as maintaining security of supply and funding research and development. If it is felt that these benefits should be maintained then increased contributions from governments may be needed.