The head of Mitsubishi-Hitachi Power Systems Americas, Paul Browning, heralded an unstoppable drive towards the use of low carbon technologies, while unveiling the company’s first 65 per cent efficient combined-cycle gas-fired power plant, during a speech at the POWER-GEN conference in Las Vegas.

Browning took the occasion of the keynote speech at the world’s largest power generation conference to unveil the new 600 MW plant, and also to refer to the strides gas-fired power has made in reducing CO2 levels over the past 12 years.
Paul Browning
“We have broken ground on what will be the world’s first 65 per cent efficiency power plant, with a completion date of 2020. Welcome to the future we are embracing.”

“There has been an incredible change in the cost of electricity from cleaner sources of power generation and the levelized cost of energy from renewables has seen dramatic reduction, for example with wind at 12 per cent per year over the last ten years. Similarly solar pv has been reduced by 20 per cent per year over the last decade – an incredible accomplishment.”

Though the dramatic drop in the cost of electricity from renewable sources has been well-documented, Browning said natural gas has experienced a similar drop in cost, with an estimated drop of 12 per cent each year over the last decade. Natural gas now produces electricity at $41 per MWh.

“That’s not quite as well understood, that similar cost reduction,” said Browning in reference to the US experience. “The costs per MW of gas power is now 30 per cent lower than ten years ago, while efficiency during that time has climbed from 58 to 64 per cent.”

In some cases, the cost drop has been even more extreme. MHPS recently helped the Grand River Dam Authority replace its coal-fired power unit 3 with a gas-fired turbine that is the company’s first J-class turbine in North America.

“The delivered cost of electricity from that plant is less than the rail costs of coal deliveries alone,” Browning said.

Most nations of the world have signed up for ambitious carbon reduction goals via the Paris Agreement, and carbon emissions from China have started to peak. However, Browning noted that the power industry has already lowered carbon dioxide emissions by 24 percent since 2005. Studies indicate 40 percent of that was from renewables, 53 percent from a switch from coal to natural gas and the remainder is from the natural gas fleet becoming more efficient.

“This change was driven not by politics, but by markets and technology,” he said. “There is every reason to expect this trend will continue as long as price of gas and the LCOE continues to decline and older plant needs to be replaced.”

He told the gathering of power industry professionals that even developing nations have started to switch from purchasing the less-advanced offerings from MHPS to the company’s more efficient technologies.

Despite all the progress made in renewables and gas power, the MHPS chief claimed that carbon capture and storage (CCS) still has an important role to play as part of a pragmatic portfolio of solutions designed to meet climate targets. He referenced the Petra Nova CCS project, which won an award at the event on the day.

“So much brand new coal-fired generation has been installed in developing countries and it will be there for a long time, with no incentive to retire them and this project in Houston is on schedule and on budget – we often hear bad stories about clean coal but this technology is what we need to deploy around the developing world.