While gas-fired power generation will register a substantial net increase in the global power generation industry, coal-fired capacities will witness major growth only in emerging regions, according to a new study from Frost & Sullivan. Coal-based generation will decline rapidly in North America and even faster in Europe post–2020 as new emission legislations come into operation.

The Annual Global Power Generation Forecasts 2014 finds that the global installed power generation capacity is forecast to rise from 5,640 gigawatts (GW) in 2012 to 9,266 GW in 2030. During the same period, electricity generation will grow from 22,441 terawatt hour (TWh) to reach 34,458 TWh.

 “Although generation from all fuel sources apart from oil will increase, coal will remain the dominant source, accounting for nearly 26 percent of the installed capacity and almost 34 percent of generation in 2030,” says Frost & Sullivan Energy and Environmental Industry Director Harald Thaler. “Gas, however, is expected to catch up rapidly.”

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Major market trends include:

  • Boom in gas-fired additions owing to the need for cleaner, more flexible generating systems and the higher global gas output.
  • Massive capacity expansion in North America as a result of vast shale gas discoveries; gas-based power will gain pace in the Middle East and China as well.
  • Strong growth in renewable energy demand across the world. The main driver for this is governments’ focus on curbing fossil fuel emissions, partly to comply with international agreements on climate change and partly to support new industries in the field of green economy.
  • North America and Asia outpacing Europe in terms of renewable capacity development as the region scales back its support programs amid weak power demand growth and governmental austerity drives.

Still, global progress toward a low-carbon energy system will remain slow, Frost & Sullivan says. This is mainly due to low-capacity factors for most renewable forms of power generation when compared with conventional power.

“As such, the share of carbon-free power will go up only gradually; from 32 percent in 2012 it will grow to 38 percent in 2020 and reach 42 percent in 2030,” Thaler says. “Nevertheless, the additional 809 GW of gas capacity due to be operational by 2030 will contribute significantly toward a lower-carbon fuel mix, powering the global industry toward more carbon-free production.”