The news that Uniper has signed a deal with GE to decarbonise its European gas-fired power plants marks the latest stage of the German energy provider’s reinvention.
It also highlights the importance of gas in the energy transition, a role that has come into sharp focus in recent years.
The flexibility of gas as a fuel has seen it become widely regarded as the enabler of the energy transition and the true bridging fuel to a clean energy future.
And at the centre of this focus is the gas turbine. For years it has been the backbone of the energy system for countries around the world and it will continue to be so.
The engineering and maintenance of gas turbines has also kept pace with the many digital innovations of recent years (Uniper has been at the forefront of this, incidentally: see my interview to find out more).
It’s a certainty that all gas turbines will one day run on clean gas, and Uniper is edging closer to this green utopia.
The company operates 34 GW of installed global generation capacity, much of it gas fired and a lot of it in Europe.
“In a few years, Uniper’s European fleet will consist mainly of climate-friendly gas-fired power plants,” said the company’s chief executive Andreas Schierenbeck this week. (Read the full story).
“From now on, our investments will focus primarily on the further decarbonization of the gas assets which could include post combustion carbon capture, utilization and sequestration, as well as blue or green hydrogen.”
He said clean hydrogen will “as far as it is possible and sensible, replace the fossil components of the gas plants”.
There’s more to this than Uniper managing to make itself relevant in the context of the energy transition.
A few years ago, some thought that all fossil fuel generators would eventually disappear in a puff of carbon-heavy smoke. Instead, advances in clean gas have enabled firms like Uniper to adapt and evolve to the changing energy landscape – particularly in Europe.
And in doing so, they preserve the skill sets of the company’s considerable engineering staff and allow those skills to adapt and embrace the latest gas turbine technologies, and then pass them on to the next generation of engineers.
Ultimately the energy transition is enabled by innovation but delivered by people – and we need to keep as many of these people on board as possible.
Until next week,