Comparative Analysis of Transitional Energy Sources for Power Generation (Nuclear, Hydro, Wind, Solar PV, Natural Gas and Underground Coal Gasification)


Due to increasing concern over environmental damage that fossil fuel consumption is causing on a global scale, alternative methods of energy and power production are being widely researched and utilised, pursuant to fossil fuel replacement in the energy mix. This study focuses on transitional fuel types, technologies, other non-fuel forms of energy generation, and their implementation in the real world to determine whether they are economically, commercially and politically attractive options. This includes nuclear power, and renewable energy sources (RES) such as hydroelectricity, wind and solar photovoltaics (PV). The study also analyses the oldest natural gas in the context of its purported status as a (clean energy) “transition fuel” in power generation, and another technology, namely underground coal gasification (UCG), which has the potential for producing cheap and reliable energy, albeit through the combustion of coal, a fossil fuel, underground. These fuel sources are analysed initially on their techno-economic feasibility. Then both sectoral risks investor trends are critically examined in the context of relative affordability and economic attractiveness. A further analysis is conducted into public policy requirements/ implications of these different fuels sources. Nuclear power plants (NPP) are a controversial method of power production due to the risk for potential catastrophe as realized by the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters. Hydro and wind power with the current technology and the lack of constant provision of both energy sources are unable to provide a stable and reliable rate of energy production. Solar PV offers huge upside potential, even as the technology has not reached that potential yet. Natural gas being dependable becomes far less competitive with Carbon capture and storage integration. UCG has certain advantages as a transitional fuel over other fossil fuels and renewables by being able to provide constant power and clean energy due to the fact that best practices in UCG projects involve carbon sequestration and contaminant neutralization.