16 Dec 2019

Global Natural Gas Electricity Is Gaining On Coal

16 Dec 2019  by Jude Clemente   
Perhaps the primary question for climate and reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the ability of natural gas to displace coal in the power generation sector. The coal-to-gas switch capacity is so important because both are more reliable and affordable than other climate solutions being promoted. And augmented by having few criteria pollutants, gas has 50% less CO2 emissions than coal. Gas is also the backup for intermittent renewables, making it an essential resource for more wind and solar development.

Generally cheaper and more domestically available, especially key for the emerging giants China and India, coal supplied 38% of global electricity in 2018, versus 23% for gas. What is most interesting, however, is that their share of generation capacity is much closer, with coal at 29% and gas at 24%. The power sector accounts for 40% of total gas usage globally.

More countries are turning to natural gas, which is emerging as the world's go-to fuel. Gas generation gaining share on coal will continue in the coming decades. Historically low gas prices globally are being understated in terms of locking-in more gas infrastructure and usage. For the still developing world, these low prices are critical because the residents have less money to absorb high costs.

A carbon price, for instance, would surely incentivize more gas over coal but it would also install higher cost energy for poor people that are already horrifically energy-deprived, often forced to use dangerous biomass. With six in every seven humans struggling in still developing nations, energy poverty continues to go utterly ignored. But make no mistake, the poor nations want access to the same carbon-based energy that made the rich nations rich: “Global climate talks fall short.”

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