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New GE analysis finds way to reduce coal plant emissions by 10%

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World Coal,

GE has released a first-of-its-kind analysis of global power plants, which found that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the world’s fleet of coal and gas plants can be reduced by 10% – the equivalent of removing 95% of cars off US roads – when existing hardware and software solutions are fully applied. The analysis is the first to quantify the emission reductions of using existing technologies to upgrade the global fleet of coal and gas-based power plants.

“The technology to make coal and gas more efficient is available now – countries and companies alike should be taking advantage of this to lower their carbon output,” said Deb Frodl, Global Executive Director, Ecomagination, GE. “These actions should be taken as a complement to continued investment in renewable energy sources as we all strive to find carbon reductions across the energy mix.”

GE used a proprietary set of data for each coal-fired and gas-fired plant in the world to uncover potential opportunities to improve plants’ heat rate and lower carbon emissions. The analysis comes as countries around the world are looking for climate saving solutions that will help them transition to a lower carbon energy future.


Potential for coal plant upgrades


  • Coal-fired power plants could be made approximately 4% more efficient with 2.5% in efficiencies coming from turbine and boiler upgrades, and 1.5% coming from software improvements.
  • The analysis also found that applying all potential upgrades to coal-fired power plants can remove 900 million t of CO2 (11% of total coal power emissions) – more than the annual CO2 output of the UK and France combined.
  • China (296 million t) and India (143 million t) are two countries with big opportunities in the coal power sector.


“Our goal is to provide technology solutions that best meet the needs of our customers and help reduce emissions,” said Paul McElhinney, President & CEO, GE Power Services. “Globally, carbon emissions from coal and gas-fired electricity generation can be reduced by 10% annually, and GE’s software and hardware upgrade solutions can help make this a reality with moderate investments in the installed base.”

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), approximately 41% of global electricity generation comes from coal-fired power plants and 22% comes from gas-fired power plants. The IEA estimates that both fuels will see increased use over the next decade. For markets with significant energy needs and coal reliance, such as China and India, upgrades to power plants can help provide cleaner energy options and help countries make progress towards their climate goals. With natural gas playing an increasingly important role in many markets around the world, there is also great opportunity to ensure that it too is being utilised as efficiently as possible.

In response to the findings, GE has set up a dedicated team to provide customers with holistic software, hardware and financing solutions for coal plant upgrades.

Additional findings from GE’s Global Power Plant Analysis include:

  • Upgrades to the entire global coal fleet can save 494 million t of fuel globally on an annual basis.
  • In the EU – where there is a goal to reduce emissions 40% by 2030 – these solutions can help drive efficiencies from coal reliant countries like Poland where coal accounts for 80 percent of electricity generation.
  • In Africa, South Africa has the biggest opportunity for fuel and carbon savings (23 million t) coming upgrades in the coal power sector.

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