Diesel generator sets: navigating an uncertain future
Diesel generator sets remain crucial to many key industries and are a multi-billion dollar global market. Despite poor environmental credentials, the market size will continue to grow in the short term as conventional methods of power provision are unable to keep up with demand. Beyond this period of short term growth, the market direction is less certain due to a variety of often conflicting market drivers. For more clarity on this, see the recent IDTechEx Research report: Diesel Generator Set Future Developments and Alternative Technologies 2019-2029.
Of the market drivers, regulatory emission controls are one of the most important factors, forcing OEMs to invest in expensive exhaust aftertreatment technologies and passing these increased costs on their customers. With EU stage V emissions regulations being phased in over the next 2-3 years and the cost of renewables and energy storage continuing to fall, a tipping point for many end-use applications is conceivably in sight.
EU non-road emissions limits stage I-V. Source: International Council on Clean Transport
In recognition of this, the key diesel generator stakeholders are adapting their business models and expanding in new directions. Caterpillar for example made several new product announcements earlier this year, including the launch of a number of gas-fired generator sets such as the Cat CG132B whilst also revealing new strategic directions including the use of the company's existing distribution network to support sales of Cat-branded SunPower solar panels.
A move away from conventional diesel generator sets is also being driven by the end-user as well as OEMs. Many heavy industrial sectors are increasingly looking beyond diesel not for environmental reasons, but for reliability and financial concerns. The mining and telecoms sectors have seen many examples of this throughout 2018. Chilean copper mining group Antofagasta announced the world's first mine to run on 100% renewable energy through a combination of hydro, solar and wind power, whilst Kenyan Telecom Company SafariCom set out its plans to completely phase out the use of diesel generator sets at its 4,945 base station sites across the country. Many similar announcements by key stakeholders from oil & gas, mining, agriculture, telecoms, construction, data centre, military, utility and more were seen throughout 2018. For more information see the new IDTechEx report Diesel Generator Set Future Developments and Alternative Technologies 2019-2029.