Low Carbon Thermal Power

Decarbonization Avenue : Low Carbon Thermal Power

Thermal power plants are the dominant source of electricity generation the world over currently. Outside of nuclear, thermal power predominantly comprises coal-based and natural gas based power generation.

Thermal power plants alone generate about 35% of all man-made CO2 emissions globally. Low carbon processes and technologies incorporated into thermal power plant value chains can thus have a significant positive impact on decarbonization

About 4 TW (4000 GW) of thermal power generating capacity is available worldwide, generating almost 70% of the total 27,000 TWh of electricity produced annually.

A focus on low carbon thermal power presents a frontal attack on the single largest source of CO2 emissions, and thus could bring significant decarbonization gains for the 2020-2030 period.

A range of low-carbon avenues is available along the thermal power generation value chain. A shift from coal to natural gas alone can have a significant effect on CO2 emissions, as the latter emits only half the CO2 as the former for every kWh generated. For coal power plants, shifting from conventional to supercritical technology and further on to IGCC technology could significantly increase efficiency and lower the amount of CO2 emissions for every kWh. Combining clean power sources such as biomass or solar CSP to work as hybrids with coal power plants presents another avenue for decarbonizing coal-based power generation. Finally, capturing and sequestering or utilizing the CO2 emissions from thermal power plants leads to significantly less CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. 

Most of the decarbonization avenues are applicable to coal or natural gas power plants anywhere in the world from a technology perspective. However, economics, differing national policies and availability of sources such as biomass will influence the way different countries move towards low carbon thermal power plants.

For the 2020-2030 period, Innovations for reducing the carbon footprint of thermal power generation will be around use of digital to increase efficiencies, cooling tower efficiencies, smart grid & grid analytics, waste heat recovery and carbon capture, storage or utilization

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Themes & Topics

  • Type of power plant

    • Power generation for public consumption

    • Industrial captive power plant

  • Low carbon avenues

    • Enhancing power plant energy efficiency

      • Operational efficiency

      • Supercritical power plants

      • IGCC

    • Thermal + solar CSP hybrid

    • Biomass cofiring at coal power plants

    • Clean coal

    • Waste heat capture

    • Cooling tower efficiency

    • Boiler efficiency

    • Turbine efficiency

    • Operations monitoring & control

    • Carbon capture at power plants

    • Peak shaving



  • Education/capacity building

    • Knowledge sharing

  • Collaboration

  • Use of IT & digital solutions

    • AI & Big Data

    • IoT

    • Smart Grid

  • Case studies

  • Financing

  • Geographical trends & policies

    • North America

    • South America

    • Europe

    • Middle East & Africa

    • Australia

  • Economics

  • Challenges

    • Technology

    • Economics

    • Societal