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With natural gas prices being steadily on the rise, EIA reports indicate an expected decline in the usage of natural gas for power generation. The increasing costs of fossilized fuel resources, their limited availability and steady demand now make it mandatory for countries to consider energy saving means to utilise these resources for power generation.
Energy efficiency in power generation enables countries to harness precious natural resources in a sustainable manner. It has been observed and reported that conventional power plants generating electricity from natural resources tend to lose a major part of it during different stages of the process itself. For example, just 1% of the electricity generated at a conventional power plant is available for end use, in the case of domestic lighting. There are consistent energy losses at each stage of power generation, apart from losses during transmission and conversion at the end-user point.
Fossilized fuel sources theoretically offer high electricity generation efficiencies when compared to renewable or clean energy sources, except for water, as large scale hydro-electric power generation facilities tend to efficiently harness the power of water. The energy harnessed, however, should be fully utilised to justify the costs and efforts put into the process. Steam turbine-based power production results in approximately 65 % wastage in terms of heat generated during the process, while the type of fuel used also influences the energy efficiency of the system.
Cogeneration is an energy saving, sustainable alternative to conventional power production. The concept or technique involves an efficient power generation system that also utilises the heat or thermal energy generated from the system to heat spaces or water, or even to power adsorption chillers used for refrigeration purposes. This heat is otherwise rendered waste, resulting inefficient fuel usage. Gas turbines are extremely efficient in reclaiming heat lost in power production and are widely used in combined heat and power plants, and combined cycle power plants that are based on the concept of cogeneration.
With countries, such as Japan, set to decommission their ageing nuclear reactors to comply with standard safety protocols, demand for fossil fuels is certainly expected to be on the rise, making them even more costly. Efficient utilisation of these fuels, especially for power generation, is the only way to make the process sustainable and cost-efficient.