Reporter’s Notebook: A Glimpse into the Future

Issue 7 and Volume 120.

By Russell Ray, Chief Editor

At Power Engineering, we review a lot of statistics and collaborate with some of the industry’s most knowledgeable power professionals. We’ve been given a front row seat to this historic transformation of the North American power sector, and we take great pride in bringing the industry together to vet the issues and technical challenges facing power producers today.

Demands for faster, more flexible, more efficient and cleaner generation are changing the way the industry manages, maintains and operates its assets. Every segment of the industry must adapt, as power producers face flat or declining demand for electricity for the foreseeable future.

What follows are bits and pieces of conversations and statistics scribbled in a reporter’s notebook over the last couple of months. They may provide a sense of the challenges this industry is facing and where we’re going.

  • Barry Nicholls, president of Power & Gas for Siemens USA, on one reason for the slow but steady transition to natural gas: “The age of the existing fleet is another reason. There is going to be 200,000 MW of capacity in the country that will cross the 50-year operating service threshold just in this decade. A lot of machinery is coming to the end of its useful life.”
  • In a press release, GE said an estimated $90 billion is expected to be invested in the digitalization of energy by 2020.
  • According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. nuclear generation will remain flat through 2040, even with the Clean Power Plan, which is currently on hold.
  • If the Clean Power Plan is implemented, the share of generation produced with coal would fall to 21 percent in 2030 and 18 percent in 2040. If the CPP is not implemented, coal-fired generation would remain flat as the remaining coal-fired units are forced to run at higher capacities.
  • Joe Mastrangelo, chief executive officer of GE Gas Power Systems, on the H-class gas turbine market: “Two or three years ago, we had a single digit share in this space. Today, we have close to 40 percent. That’s the kind of march we want to continue as we bring the technology to the market.”
  • Power generation will account for 34 percent of the growth in natural gas consumption between 2015 and 2040, EIA said. During the 25-year period, natural gas consumption in the U.S. will rise 1 percent a year, from 28 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in 2015 to 34 Tcf in 2040, a 21-percent increase, according to EIA’s report.
  • More than 1,600 MW of solar PV capacity was installed in the first quarter of 2016, according to a new report from GTM Research. Solar PV accounted for 64 percent of all new generation brought online in the first quarter. This is the tenth consecutive quarter in which more than 1,000 MW of PV capacity was installed in the U.S. Of the 1,600 MW installed in the first quarter, more than 500 MW were utility scale
  • Roger Lenertz, executive vice president of power for Black & Veatch, on combined cycle efficiency ratings: “We believe over the next decade the combined cycle efficiencies realized in the field will increase to more than 65 percent. That’s going to benefit operators all over the world.”
  • Nearly 19,000 MW of power generation fueled with natural gas is expected to be built and commissioned between 2016 and 2018 in the U.S., EIA said.
  • By 2040, renewables will overtake coal to become the leading source of power generation worldwide, according to EIA. Meanwhile, coal will continue to be the dominant source of electricity for another 24 years, the report found.
  • Biomass generation in the U.S. grew by 8 TWh in the last five years, according to EIA. The growth occurred across all sectors, expanding from 56 TWh in 2010 to 64 TWh in 2015. Last year, biomass electricity generation accounted for 11.3 percent of renewable generation and 1.6 percent of total generation in the U.S.

If you have a question or a comment, contact me at [email protected]. Follow me on Twitter @RussellRay1.