Improving coal power fleet efficiency is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce emissions of CO2 and other air pollutants from the power sector. The average efficiency of the global coal power fleet has increased steadily over the years and is currently around 37.5%. However, this is still way below the >47.5% efficiency that today’s state-of-the-art power plants can achieve, leaving huge room for improvement. This study looks at the trend of efficiency improvement of the coal power fleet at global and national levels over the past two decades. Case studies for China, India, Japan and the USA identify the key drivers and barriers to coal fleet efficiency improvement in the past, and how they were addressed. The historical coal power fleet efficiency data are analysed in relation to various nations’ policies and regulations to see which were effective and which were less so. With this information and insights, decision-makers can gauge effective approaches to minimise the environmental impacts of coal power generation through fleet efficiency improvements.
Improving efficiency of existing coal power plants incurs capital costs. Plant owners need to be motivated to invest in power plant efficiency upgrades, usually by mandates or incentives. This study has found that compliance with government policies and regulations has been the main driver in most cases. While top down approaches appear to be most effective if the policies are well formulated and are fully implemented, a competitive market provides opportunities and economic incentives to power plant owners to improve power generation efficiency and therefore, acts as another main driver. Policies, if poorly designed and not carefully considered, could create uncertainties and burdens on power plant owners discouraging them from investing in efficiency upgrading projects.
Historic Efficiency Improvement of The Coal Power Fleet