Utility turbines bridge the capacity gap.
Scott M. Gawlicki is a Fortnightly contributing editor and energy industry writer. Email him at email@example.com.
Despite continued price volatility, natural gas is still the best short-term option for electric utilities looking to add new generation to meet growing electrical demand.
At least, that’s the way two state regulators see it.
“When you consider the (construction) lead time, the availability of the fuel, the fact that it’s cleaner than coal, and the fact that it doesn’t generate the societal concerns associated with nuclear power, right now gas is the primary choice,” says Edward S. Finley, Jr., chairman of the North Carolina Utilities Commission.
“Minnesota requires (utilities) to look at energy efficiency, demand response and renewable-energy options first. If that’s not sufficient to meet the forecasted demand, then they can consider generation options,” says Phyllis Reha of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. “Until carbon capture and other coal risks are worked out, natural gas looks to be the least-cost option.”
These are trying times for electric utilities attempting to cobble together resource plans for the next two decades. On the one hand, electrical demand in most parts of the country is rising and expected to increase further. On the other, the new administration is expected to institute green-house gas legislation that will limit carbon emissions and spur some degree of carbon-allowance trading.