Why is gas power critical to support Italy's energy future?

The most effective way to ensure power system reliability and energy security is through a mix of generation sources. No single form of power generation is ideal in every situation or economy. For example:

  • Wind and solar are variable but consume no fuel and emit no CO2.
  • Natural gas-fuel generation emits CO2 but is dispatchable (i.e., has output that can be readily controlled between maximum rated capacity or decreased to zero) to help balance supply and demand).
  • Hydro power often requires dedicating significant amounts of land area but is zero-carbon, renewable and dispatchable, and can provide long-term, low-cost energy storage.

Gas-fired power plants are available regardless of the time of day or weather conditions, providing dependable capacity as long as needed, whether for minutes, hours, days or weeks at a time. With Italy’s plans to add a substantial amount of renewable energy to its grid, and the phaseout of all coal power capacity by 2025, the need for reliable, cleaner power from gas power plants to balance out intermittent power sources is greater than ever.

Fast, flexible and reliable: The natural gas advantage

Among the reasons for the continued interest in natural gas-fired power plants is their ability to adjust quickly to accommodate both fluctuations in demand and variable renewable energy supply. For instance, an 830-megawatt 9HA.02 GE combined-cycle power plant powering ~800,000 EU households can start in less than 45 minutes, ramp up or down at >90 MW/min and turn down to less than 175 MW while maintaining emissions limits. Such agility is essential to balance out variable wind and solar supply levels.

The fact that gas power is the cleanest-burning fossil fuel—releasing about 50 percent less CO2 than coal and much less than other pollutants—means it’s also desirable for helping meet Italy’s decarbonization goal of 55% renewable power generation by 2030. Not only can GE provide highly efficient gas turbines like the 9HA.02, we also provide efficiency upgrades to make our turbines run even cleaner. The 9HA.02 DLN 2.6e combustion system provides tremendous fuel flexibility and is capable of burning up to 50% hydrogen (H2) combined with natural gas fuel.

Gas is the right financial option for Italy’s energy needs

Another factor driving the demand for new gas power plants is the fact that the up-front capital investment required is lower than for other options per kilowatt of installed capacity. The latest advanced combined-cycle natural gas plant typically costs about €550/kW, compared to €1,100/kW for utility-scale solar, €1,350/kW for onshore wind and €3,025/kW for offshore wind. Installing gas power is also a relatively quick process compared to other generation sources: Simple-cycle plants can be built within months and combined-cycle plants can be online in 3 years—five times faster than the latest nuclear power plants. The capability to produce power by early 2025 to address additional power generation needs as a result of Italy’s phase-out of coal, combined with a competitive €/MWh, are important award criteria for the country’s upcoming capacity auction.

It’s clear that as Italy and the world navigates the energy transition and faces the pressing need to tackle climate change and addresses the need to provide stable and secure electricity supply, gas power can provide affordable baseload power and complementary cyclic or peaking power as needed to accommodate future growth of renewables.

GE Power is currently supporting Italy’s energy mix in with our Italy GE Gas Power Italy headquarters in Milan. Contact GE Gas Power today to learn more about enhancing the reliability and efficiency of your gas power plant.

I look forward to working together to build a sustainable future for Italy with the support of natural gas!

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