Coal to play bigger role in future power generation with world capacity of 1450 GW by 2012


The role of coal-fired generators will be greater and gas turbines less. This prediction, which is counter to government forecasts, is based on a country-by-country analysis in World Fossil Fired Power Individual Country Capacity Forecasts, published by the McIlvaine Company.


The report predicts that U.S. coal-fired capacity will grow faster than predicted by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), a division of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). According to the report, the present capacity of 329 gigawatts (GW) will expand to 356 GW by 2012. There are a number of reasons why the McIlvaine Company is predicting greater growth for coal and less for gas turbines.


(1)  The price of natural gas will remain high.


(2)  The cost of environmental controls for coal-fired plants will be less than anticipated.


(3)  The opportunity to combine biomass gasification as a supplemental fuel for existing coal-fired boilers will boost electricity output and qualify units as renewable energy producers.


World coal-fired capacity is forecast to increase from 1200 GW in 2004 to 1450 GW in 2012. Gas turbine capacity is forecast to increase from 649 GW this year to 900 GW in 2012.  It should be noted that most coal-fired plants will be base-loaded while many gas turbine plants will operate only at peak hours.


The Department of Energy (DOE) forecasts that in 2012, 40 quadrillion Btu (quads) of gas will be utilized for world electricity generation compared to 76 quads of coal. McIlvaine believes that coal will be more than 80 quads and gas will be less than 36.


A big variable in the forecast is the growth of capacity in China. Coal-fired capacity is projected to grow at 17 GW per year over the next eight years. But the Chinese government has a target to add as much as 30 GW per year of coal-fired capacity. If they achieved this, then the world capacity in 2012 would be 104 GW larger than forecasted.


There is uncertainty in Western Europe due to the impact of the Kyoto protocol.  But McIlvaine maintains that replacing coal-fired plants older than 20 years (operating at 31 percent efficiency) with new coal-fired plants (with 45 percent efficiency), will be the most cost effective option for CO2 reduction. Thus, Western Europe coal-fired capacity will increase from 154 GW in 2004 to 164 GW in 2012. Investment in new coal-fired plants will be substantially more than the 10 GW differential in capacity due to the replacement factor.


Coal-fired plant capacity in Eastern Europe will expand from 60 GW this year to 70 GW in 2012. In addition, a number of existing plants will be replaced in keeping with environmental stipulations for new European Union members.


For more information on World Fossil Fired Power Individual Country Capacity Forecasts, click on:






Bob McIlvaine