The EU must ensure that coal can remain a viable fuel source for electricity generation, insisted Pedro Larrea, senior vice president, energy management at Spanish utility Endesa, speaking at yesterday’s opening keynote session of POWER-GEN Europe 2004 in Barcelona. “Coal must not be marginalized as an energy source, due to environmental issues. The EU should support what is the cheapest and most reliable thermal technology,” said Larrea.
According to Larrea, the current preference for “fashionable” gas raises security of supply issues and that it is an unacceptable risk to rely on a single fuel source. EU countries import 50 per cent of gas consumed with some countries, like Spain, depending 100 per cent on imports for gas. Larrea also said that, although gas was relatively reliable and produced half the emissions of coal, research needed to be undertaken to examine its environmental impact across the “total cycle”. The cost involved in developing gas fired power plants are also twice that of coal fired plants.
Larrea believes that the priorities of Europe’s power industry have now shifted towards security of supply, environmental concerns, quality of service and cost/price and away from a focus on privatization and liberalization. “We are at a crossroads in a number of respects. Modern society needs to strike a balance between developing the network to meet increasing demand and addressing social concerns'” said Larrea.
With regard to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, Larrea said, “The Kyoto Protocol is a good first step in reducing emissions but the way in which the EU is implementing the Emissions Trading Directive is causing asymmetry. Despite the relatively low level of emissions in Spain, the country is still short of its target and the impact on industry of having to buy emissions certificates could have an impact on competitiveness.”
POWER-GEN Europe’s second keynote speaker was Philippe Joubert, executive vice president of French engineering group Alstom. Joubert outlined Alstom’s view of the drivers that are influencing the trends in power demand and technology worldwide. “GDP is a factor, but GDP growth does not drive electricity growth to the same extent all around the world. The areas where power growth are likely to outstrip GDP growth are China, India and the Middle East,” said Joubert. Alstom forecast that new orders from China, for example, will represent 32 per cent of the global market by 2010, up from 16 per cent, while the share from the USA will decline from 46 per cent to 10 per cent.
Alstom also regards the age of power plant fleets across Europe and North America as a significant factor affecting the demand for new plant development. “With environmental issues likely to become the number one power market driver in future, this will only accelerate the retirement of older plant,” said Joubert.
Alstom believe that investment in power market infrastructure will have to take account of an increasing insistence on reliability and power quality from customers. Computers and internet-based communications are raising the bar in terms of required power quality and this trend is only going to continue.
Joubert’s view of the trend in fuel sources mirrored those expressed by Pedro Larrea earlier, ” The predominance of gas will reduce with the proportion of power generated by coal and hydropower increasing.”