Addressing the Regional Electricity Sector’s Biggest Challenges
By Dr. Sacha Parneix, Commercial General Manager for GE’s Steam Power Systems business in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey
Today, we see an almost revolutionary transformation of the power industry.
Driving this change are four trends: efforts by countries to implement their Paris Agreement/ COP21 commitments; the declining cost of renewable energy that is seeing price competitiveness with fossil fuels in regions rich in sun, wind or water; the growing focus on fuel diversification to meet energy independence and security goals, including the use of both fossil fuels and renewables; and the digitization of the electricity value network (EVN) from the point of power generation, to transmission and distribution, to consumption.
However, challenges remain. Energy needs in the Middle East and North Africa alone are growing at 8 percent per annum. Meeting these rising energy needs while transitioning to renewable energy will take time and even when countries start generating a greater proportion of the energy mix through renewables, they will need to resolve the issue of intermittency. No source of sunshine, wind and water is constant throughout the day or year. Fossil fuel based energy is needed to both meet growing energy needs and to stabilize the grid but we need to find a way to make this energy cleaner.
The good news is, technology is evolving rapidly to address these challenges and power change. Factors such as larger wind turbine blades, which can help generate more power are contributing to reduce the per megawatt cost of wind power generated. While it’s well known that PV panel costs are falling, another component of solar farms – the inverter – is helping bring down costs. Inverters transform the direct current generated by PV panels to the alternating current that we use. New inverter technology is helping PV farms do this more efficiently, helping generate more power from the same amount of sunlight.
In the area of thermal power generation, we’re seeing an evolution in technologies that are helping increase the efficiency of both new and existing plants. Gas turbines that offer greater than 63 percent plant net efficiency in combined cycle operations exist today and coal-based power plants are heading towards plant net 50 percent efficiency. In fact, GE-built technologies today power the world’s most efficient gas and coal-based power plants. Greater efficiency means less fuel consumed and fewer stack emissions per megawatt of power generated. Moreover, modern flue gas cleaning technologies allow capturing most pollutants from the flue gas before it is released into the atmosphere.
Moreover, gas and steam turbines are being built to offer greater flexibility, allowing customers to maintain stable power production and to reliably accommodate grid variations as well as fluctuations in fuel supply through quick start-up, rapid load changes, frequency control, the use of multiple fuels and other features.
Digital solutions are also helping to stabilize the grid, through the analysis of data and smart controls that help manage supply and demand in real time to keep the system in balance. They also help power plant and grid owners and operators identify anomalies and potential issues before they occur, providing an opportunity for early preventive interventions and reducing breakdowns and major faults.
GE Power is showcasing many of these advanced technologies, which are helping to unlock record-setting efficiency, as well as greater flexibility, sustainability and cost savings for its customers and partners at WETEX 2017. Visit GE Power at the show at booth SSP11 in Za’abeel Hall 1, Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Center to learn more.