The primary non-residential use of natural gas is electricity generation. Prashant Modi says that globally, there is an ever-increasing need for electricity, which is coupled with the high costs of solar and wind energy, the tightening limits on noise, water, and air pollution, and the reduced tolerances for hydro and nuclear plans. This has resulted in gas-fired electricity generation becoming one of the very few options left for utility companies. Because the price of fuel accounts for almost two thirds of the price of electricity, the cost-effectiveness of the fuel used for its generation is of paramount importance.
Coal has been the dominant fuel for many of the electricity power plants around the world. However, the biggest drawback of this fuel is the pollution which it emits during combustion. Modern natural gas electricity plants are much cleaner, not to mention far more efficient than coal plants. They are also cause less pollution and noise, and are cheaper to construct. Prashant Modi also says because of these factors, obtaining permits to build these plants is normally far easier than it would for the construction of a nuclear or coal plant.
There are several different kinds of gas-powered electric plants, including steam power and combined cycle plants. In a conventional steam power plan, the natural gas is placed in a steam generator, which then produces steam that powers an enormous turbine, which subsequently generates electricity. During this process, the generator produces waste heat, and the turbine low pressure steam. The latter can sometimes be used for heating, if the demand exists however it cannot be used to generate more electricity.
In contrast, combined cycle plants generate electricity directly from a natural gas generator, after the gas is burnt in a turbine. Power is also generated from steam, which is produced from the heat of the natural gas generator. Because natural gas generators always run at very high temperatures, Prashant Modi says that the steam generated from the heat of the turbine has enough energy to drive a second steam powered turbine. Therefore, combined cycle plants are generally thought to be the most efficient natural gas electricity plants.