Technology Innovation: Gateway to a Sustainable Energy Future
The theme of this year’s World Future Energy Summit, “Powering Sustainable Energy,” sets exactly the right tone for our industry, and underscores the urgency of the challenges we all face.
The world today requires innovative solutions to drive sustainable development, with a focus on energy and water use efficiency. It is imperative that those of us in the energy sector continue to invest aggressively in research and development to develop new technologies for powering a cleaner, more productive world.
A recent study from the International Energy Association states that if we continue on a business-as-usual path, the scenario for a few decades down the road is grim. Unless the industry takes strong steps to change course, by 2050 carbon emissions could rise at more than 130%, with power generation accounting for 44% of total global emissions. Clearly, this position is not sustainable.
Demand for cleaner, smarter and more efficient energy solutions continues to expand across the globe. The need for a holistic approach to address growing energy use, changing electricity demand and climate change is more crucial than ever.
The WFES is an excellent forum for those of us in the industry to discuss and better understand the challenges we face, and to share information about how the technology of today and tomorrow can help us secure a sustainable energy and environmental future for our planet.
At GE, we see three key trends currently driving the energy industry, here in the Middle East as well as around the world. They include a growing demand for natural and unconventional gas; renewables; and distributed power generation.
Natural gas, an abundant, cleaner burning fossil fuel, is in greater demand in today’s carbon-constrained world. As the need for cleaner energy grows, so does the pressure to exploit unconventional sources of natural gas, such as shale gas and coal bed methane. Also getting a lot of attention is flare gas.
About 150 billion cubic meters of gas is flared, or wasted, every year. That’s approximately 5% of the world’s annual gas production. Capturing that gas and using it for power generation is a huge opportunity. Today’s technology enables us to take full advantage of that opportunity. For example, in recent months, GE technology has been applied for projects in Russia and China, converting flare gas into useful, economic energy.
While natural gas will continue to play a significant role, no single technology or fuel can address all of the world’s energy requirements. Renewables, such as wind and solar, will take on growing importance across the energy spectrum, as technology continues to produce increases in efficiency, reliability and productivity.
Gas turbine combined-cycle technology fits nicely into this scenario too. The latest advances in combined cycle technology offer the efficiency and flexibility to support the smooth integration of renewable energy into power grids worldwide.
A case in point, in June 2011, GE and Turkish project developer Metcap Energy Investments announced plans to develop the world’s first Integrated Renewables Combined Cycle plant, based on GE’s new FlexEfficiency* 50 technology. By designing the plant from a total equipment and control systems perspective and utilizing the flexibility of the FlexEfficiency technology, engineers were able to seamlessly integrate natural gas, wind and solar thermal power.
This announcement was followed by the news that GE and Electricite de France, one of the world’s largest utilities, will jointly develop and showcase the first FlexEfficiency 50 plant to be connected to a national grid. Located at Bouchain in France, this plant is expected to achieve greater than 61 percent efficiency, conserving natural gas and reducing the production of greenhouse gases. Its operating flexibility will enable the plant to respond quickly to fluctuations in grid demand, paving the way for greater use of renewable resources.
Another energy sector in the spotlight today is distributed power generation, particularly in areas without strong infrastructures for transmission and distribution, and in emerging markets around the world. In places like Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan, we are seeing significant opportunities for distributed power. The production of electricity at or near the point of use is one of the best options available for markets that lack grid availability or reliability.
Once again, gas has a big role, as small and mid-sized gas engines are excellent fits for distributed generation projects. But today’s technology enables these machines to use a range of alternative fuels as well; GE’s Jenbacher gas engines are capable of burning specialty waste gases including biogas, industrial waste gases and coal mine methane.
As these activities indicate, GE continues to focus on technology development to meet critical needs in a carbon-constrained, competitive and challenging energy arena. Our commitment to a sustainable future is embodied in our ecomagination initiative to conceive and construct pioneering technologies that help customers address their environmental and financial needs, and help GE grow. For an overview of our latest offerings, please visit our booth, #5320: “GE @ Work Powering a Sustainable Future.”
Clearly, environmental sustainability is a global concern. We encourage people here in the Middle East and around the world, from individuals to large corporations, to step beyond their comfort zone and create compelling new solutions that can bring about tangible results for a better world.
By Steve Bolze
President and CEO, GE Power & Water
* Trademark of the General Electric Company