There appears to be a general lack of understanding in the community of the significant carbon dioxide emissions reductions available via the use of natural gas in combined-cycle (or better still, cogeneration and trigeneration) power generation, due to:
(a) the greatly improved thermal efficiency it affords; and,
(b) the intrinsic nature of natural gas, which has the lowest carbon-to-hydrogen ratio of all the fossil fuels.
The net result is a reduction of approximately 60 per cent on a per kilowatt hour basis, compared with coal-fired generation.
Despite what I read, I cannot for the life of me see why the capital cost of gas-fired generation (nor for that matter the maintenance costs) is quoted as excessive. In my view, it should be a fraction of the cost of coal-fired plants considering the huge infrastructure required to support the latter, which are often built in rather remote areas necessitating the installation of costly transmission networks.
This raises the point that in this day and age the opportunity is there to move away from the traditional model of a small number of very large generators to a large number of very small generators – embedded generation. This concept is gaining acceptance worldwide, even to the individual household level. Natural gas-fuelled embedded generation facilitates the use of waste heat for domestic, commercial and industrial use, with the potential to raise thermal efficiency to combined-cycle level and beyond.
Urban renewal and the quest for improved thermal efficiency in buildings offers wonderful opportunities for this application. We would hope that the development of communities such as the transport oriented developments proposed for the Adelaide metropolitan area would use this proven technology, which is freely available.