Global power demand is set to increase on average by nearly 3% per year over the current and next decade.

Cumulatively, this moderate growth will cause overall power demand to rise by more than half of its current level between now and 2030.

If new power plants are added as foreseeable, associated CO2 emissions are likely to increase by a quarter or 3,500 megatons.

These are all the findings of a recently published study by Siemens and Professor Horst Wildemann of the Technical University of Munich.

The study finds that the global CO2 emissions that could be eliminated per year by ending power generation from coal are the equivalent of the entire CO2 emissions of all 28 countries of the European Union (EU).

“If coal-fired power plants were replaced on a wide scale with gas-fuelled power plants by 2030, CO2 emissions in the power sector would even drop by 5% compared to today’s levels,” said Professor Wildemann.

“In our study we examined the local situations and different needs in various regions of the world,” noted Michael Süß, member of the Management Board of Siemens AG and CEO of Siemens’ Energy Sector, when presenting the study at the WorldEnergy Congress.

“Of course, besides sustainability and the need for dependable power supply, economy is always important – there would be no point in closing down new coal-fired power plants ahead of schedule just to cut CO2 emissions. But it is equally apparent that all-out expansion of renewable energy sources alone does not automatically improve the climate balance, as rising CO2 emissions in Germany impressively highlight.”

“On the other hand, shutting down ageing coal-fired power plants not only reduces emissions significantly, but can also make economic sense, as has been proven in the US. In our study, we analysed various scenarios while keeping an eye on a three-way balance between sustainability, reliability and economy,” Süß explained.

In its global energy study, Siemens has examined regional situations with allowance for predicted future developments in various markets. The aim was to determine what approaches are best suited from national and global economic perspectives for creating reliable and sustainable energy systems with high efficiency but still at affordable power prices.

Electricity pilons with power station

Electricity pilons with power station

Power intensive

For an industry that is so power/electricity intensive, could the findings of this study have any bearing on the industrial gases sector?

At least two observations spring to the mind of Marcus Jakt, Business Analyst at the gasworld Business Intelligence team. He offered, “Increasing available power supply in step with escalating demand of 3% per year is quite a large infrastructure challenge, and this may have a substantial gas pricing impact if available new supply fails to keep up with demand growth.”

“As a side-note, were we to switch from coal power to natural gas-fired power stations on a large-scale, then that could well have the peripheral effect of pushing up the price and constraining supply of hydrogen – natural gas, from which 95% of hydrogen is derived, might itself not become as readily available. This would most immediately impact the refining sector and thus, the price and availability of liquid hydrocarbon fuels, but might also have more widespread effects across other segments of the economy.”