Just as news circulated this week that US President Donald Trump is gearing up to quash the Clean Power Plan and to resuscitate the coal mining industry, General Electric launched a global Powering Efficiency Center of Excellence (COE) on March 6 – bringing together cross-sector experts from its energy businesses to apply “a total plant hardware and software solution approach” to boost the efficiency of the world’s new and existing coal-fired power plants and to substantially reduce their emissions.
Headquartered in Baden, Switzerland, the global COE will be dedicated to creating “integrated solutions” that will reduce global carbon emissions, and make coal and gas more efficient. Regional teams will focus on engineering capabilities and local execution.
All of this comes amidst a Reuters report that Trump and his fellow Republicans who control Congress are seeking to unravel former President Barack Obama’s initiatives to combat global climate change, which they say are costly for US business and have hampered drilling and mining without providing any clear benefits. “Rescinding the federal coal leasing moratorium is part of [an] executive order, which has lots of different components, including the Clean Power Plan,” a White House official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters. The official said the order was scheduled to be released very shortly.l
The new COE aligns with GE’s recent study, “GE Global Power Plant Efficiency Analysis,” which found that the technology to reduce global carbon emissions and make coal and gas more efficient is available now – and that the global carbon dioxide emissions of coal and gas plants can be reduced by up to 11 percent per year, when existing hardware and software solution are fully applied.
Coal-fired power generation provides electricity for about 40 percent of the world, according to data from the International
Energy Agency. It also accounts for nearly 75 percent of the electricity sector’s carbon emissions because many plants are older and inefficient.
‘’The installed base of coal assets will not disappear overnight, and, while GE supports the increased use of renewable energy sources, we also realize the need for flexible and efficient coal solutions to help to reduce emissions and bring reliable energy supplies to power producers,” said Michael Rechsteiner, executive sponsor of the global COE and VP of Product Lines for GE’s Power Services.
He further noted, “GE has a suite of steam upgrades and emission management technologies that, when combined with our digital technologies, can increase efficiency on average by 4 percent.”
The newest coal plants being built – incorporating what GE refers to as its “ultra-super critical technology” – can deliver up to 49 percent efficiency rates. That’s significantly higher than the global average of 33 percent. Every point of efficiency reduces operating costs over the lifetime of the plant while also reducing CO2 emissions by approximately 2 percent.
Modern coal-fired power plants rely on a complex network of sensors, digital controllers and supervisory computers to operate and coordinate plant subsystems. GE’s digital capabilities and portfolio of air quality control systems can help further lower atmospheric emissions to meet or exceed the world’s strictest regulations.
In addition, the Powering Efficiency COE will provide a set of financing solutions to help customers develop transformative projects toward a lower carbon intensity power generation mix.
“By bringing together the combined experience of a cross-business group of experts from GE’s Power Services, Steam Power Systems, Global Research Center, and Global Growth organizations, we are showing operators how they can achieve emissions compliance and increased efficiency with their new and existing coal-fired power plants” said Rechsteiner.
Besides the global COE, regional GE organizations—starting in India—will help to ensure real-time answers to meet coal power plants’ local needs.
“Our initial focus is in India due to the country’s explosive energy demand projections,” said Ashok Ganesan, leader of the Powering Efficiency COE and managing director of GE’s Power India. “The overall efficiency of the existing power plant fleets, particularly the country’s aging coal-fired plants, is still relatively low. Our regional team [will demonstrate the] full potential of the Powering Efficiency COE to help the country’s coal plants operate more efficiently and reduce emissions.”