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About Group of Experts on Cleaner Electricity Production

AREAS OF WORK

  • Regulatory and policy dialogue
  • Sharing best practices in the field of cleaner electricity production from fossil fuels in the ECE region
  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), as well as carbon utilization
  • Enhanced oil recovery with carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Advanced fossil fuels technologies for power generation
  • Evaluation of efficiency enhancing measures for coal-fired power plants including steam generators, air and flue gas systems, steam turbines, generators.

The work of the Group of Experts on Cleaner Energy Production from Fossil Fuels is not limited to CCS. ECE member States could decide to develop other concrete and results-oriented activities within agreed mandates. CSE encourages the exchange of know-how and best practices between relevant experts of all member States in order to attract investments in advanced fossil fuels technologies for electricity generation with a view to supporting industrial and economic competitiveness and achieving low-carbon sustainable development.

TOPICS

A.    Assess a future role for thermal power plants in sustainable electricity systems (continued activity from 2016-2017 work plan)

Description:  
If fossil fuel-fired generation is to remain a viable part of future sustainable electricity systems, there are two main aspects to consider: (a) decreasing the carbon intensity of electricity production and (b) increasing the flexibility of fossil generation to support deployment of variable renewable power generation. The Group of Experts would assess these aspects from a system-wide perspective.

B.    Increase flexibility in coal-fired electricity generation (continued activity from 2016-2017 work plan)

Description:  
Increasing the flexibility of existing and new coal power plants could allow for deeper renewable energy penetration and thus reduce the carbon intensity of system wide electricity generation. Due to the design and operation procedures of historical electricity system development coal is used mostly as a baseload resource, however some new studies claim that existing thermal power plants can provide much more flexibility than often assumed. Operating this capacity under different operating regimes could reduce efficiencies of some power plant types and lead to non-compliance with other environmental limits (sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter, for example), if appropriate measures are not taken. However, with proper design and operating procedures, it could be possible to support larger renewable energy integration using coal as a flexible balancing resource where coal-fired power plants and fuel resources are abundant (the role of natural gas power generation for such purposes is being considered by the ECE Group of Experts on Gas).

C.    Decrease emissions and increase efficiency from new and existing coal-fired power generation using best practices across the ECE region (continued activity from 2016-2017 work plan)

Description:  
Both existing and new coal power generation will play an important role in global electricity systems in the short and medium term. In a typical pulverized coal fired plant, for each 1 per cent increase in efficiency of a coal-fired power plant there is a 2–3 per cent reduction of CO2 emissions and other air pollutants. Improving energy efficiency has been a focus of intensive energy research over the past two decades. As a result, there has been steady technological innovation towards increasing efficiency and reducing emissions from the power generation of fossil fuels, most notably from coal (where most of the research has been focused).

For existing plants, increasing the energy efficiency can offer both economic benefits while reducing GHG emissions. Over the past few years, some countries have recognized concerns with their increasing energy demand and ageing power plants. For example, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have recently begun programmes of modernization or of constructing new power plants. However, the average energy intensities in countries with economies in transition are generally still significantly higher than most other countries. Building on the efforts to implement the work plans for 2014-2015 and 2016-2017, a number of best practice guidance documents for improving plant efficiencies were identified as well as an opportunity to disseminate best practice guidance. Collaborative opportunities have been identified with a number of partners, including the World Coal Association and the International Energy Agency (IEA) Clean Coal Centre, to support this effort in the ECE region.

For construction of new coal-fired power plants, there are a number of high efficiency, low emissions (HELE) coal power generation technologies that could increase efficiencies significantly and decrease power generation emissions in the region. Coal gasification, for example, is a promising technology that offers a versatile and clean way to convert coal into electricity, hydrogen, and other valuable energy products. Introduction of HELE technologies that enhance efficiency, environmental performance and reliability is critical for countries in which electricity generation is based on coal. Activities under this topic will be developed with a view to developing best practice guidance in the deployment of HELE technologies across the ECE region. It will provide member States with the opportunity to adjust policy and regulation in a way that could identify solutions to ongoing coal utilization and a pathway towards carbon capture and storage (CCS) retrofits.

D.    Assess means for development and deployment of carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) technology and know-how (continued activity from 2016-2017 work plan)

Description:
Know-how for Carbon Capture, Use and Storage (CCUS) development and deployment is an important way to support progress in ECE member States. This activity would allow them to consider break-through technology options in the development of sustainable electricity and energy systems, especially in countries still relying on fossil fuels for electricity generation. This activity will look at the contribution of CCUS to climate change mitigation potential, as well as at the obstacles to its deployment, in particular related to the public perception of such projects. Given that large scale demonstration projects have faced the most challenges in the development of CCUS, the Group of Experts may initially focus on small scale and/or modular CCUS and aspects related to infrastructure and storage.

E.    Opportunities in combined heat and power (CHP), gasification and coal to develop other technologies or products (such as liquids or chemicals)

Description:
This activity will look at opportunities for sustainable use of fossil fuels – primarily coal – beyond electricity generation, e.g., for combined heat and power (CHP), coal gasification, or the use of coal and carbon dioxide as a feedstock to develop other technologies or products (such as liquids or chemicals).

Cross-cutting activities

F.    Role of fossil fuels in supporting renewable energy deployment

Description:
In collaboration with the Group of Experts on Renewable Energy and the Group of Experts on Gas, the Group of Experts on Cleaner Electricity Production from Fossil Fuels will review the role of fossil fuels in supporting the deployment of renewable energy. In order to increase the uptake of renewable energy sources, a reliable source of energy and capacity is needed for when renewable energy sources are not available. Both coal- and gas-fired electricity generation can provide the needed capacity.
There is also a need for rapid-response capacity to maintain balance in power networks to accommodate oscillations in the output of intermittent energy sources.

G.    Role of gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) in electricity generation (with the Group of Experts on Gas)

Description:
In collaboration with the Group of Experts on Gas, the Group of Experts on Cleaner Electricity Production from Fossil Fuels will review the role of coal and natural gas in electricity generation in the ECE region and the competing options for future electricity generation, including an increased use of LNG in electricity generation.

H.    Innovation in the extraction and use of coal mine methane for electricity production and other uses (with the Group of Experts on Coal Mine Methane)

Description:
In collaboration with the Group of Experts on Coal Mine Methane (CMM), the Group of Experts will explore methane use in the context of cleaner electricity and heat production.

BACKGROUND

The UNECE region faces significant challenges in meeting growing electricity demand. Electricity dominates almost all sectors of final energy consumption, with the exception of the transport sector. Global demand for electricity is expected to double by 2030 led largely due to growth in developing economies , while the UNECE region will see a 50% increase in demand. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), if present trends continue, US$16 trillion of investment will be needed globally over the next three decades to maintain and expand energy supply of which US$4 trillion will need to be invested in the UNECE region, about equally in generation and in transmission and distribution.

Although renewable sources and nuclear energy play very important roles in supplying primary fuel for electricity production, fossil fuels, especially coal and natural gas, are the dominant fuels for generating electric power globally and in the the UNECE region. Over 60% of the electricity generated in the UNECE region comes from fossil fuels and this trend is expected to continue given that the region holds 40% of the world’s natural gas reserves and 60% of global coal reserves. Combustion of fossil fuels, however, presents a range of environmental challenges, including carbon dioxide emissions, release of traditional criteria pollutants such as SO2 , NOx and particulate matter, and waste disposal. Production of electricity from fossil fuels must also deliver on environmental performance to ensure its long-term sustainability and acceptance.

HISTORY

In November 2006 at its 15th Session, the UNECE’s Committee on Sustainable Energy recognized the importance of encouraging investment in the power sector while ensuring that it is done so in an environmentally sustainable manner. To carry out this work, the Committee created the Ad Hoc Group of Experts on Cleaner Electricity from Coal and Other Fossil Fuels. Specifically the Ad Hoc Group of Experts provides a forum for an intergovernmental dialogue on investment and regulation for the promotion of cleaner electricity production between governmentally appointed experts, complemented by the participation of representatives from the electric power industry and other related industries, as well as the international financial sector and relevant international organizations.

In creating this Group, the Committee on Sustainable Energy consolidated the efforts of two earlier working groups, the Ad Hoc Group of Experts on Coal in Sustainable Development which focused principally on coal production and coal industry restructuring, and the Ad Hoc Group of Experts on Electric Power which focused on investment in the electricity sector and facilitation of cross-border transfers. Consolidation recognizes first that many of the issues related to coal have shifted from production to utilization. In addition, it also acknowledges the strong interrelationship and interdependency between liberalizing electricity and natural gas markets, improving environmental performance, and successfully attracting investment to the power sector.