The use of natural gas for electricity production has proven to be reliable and cost-competitive. New and efficient gas-fired power plants can be built in three years, and the cost of generating electricity from gas is often lower than other power generation options such as coal, wind and nuclear. Natural gas also has a higher conversion efficiency than traditional fossil fuels: a modern combined-cycle gas turbine has a conversion efficiency of approximately 60 per cent, almost double that of a standard thermal power station.
Natural gas is less carbon intensive than other fossil fuels, with 30 per cent less carbon than oil and 60 per cent less carbon than coal. And when used for power generation, natural gas emits up to 60 per cent less CO2 than coal, and emissions of other waste products such as mercury, sulphur and nitrogen oxide are also significantly reduced. Over time, the potential deployment of new technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) could continue to improve the environmental advantages of natural gas.
The Shift from Coal to Natural Gas
According to the IEA, U.S. energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide fell by 450m tons over the past five years - the largest drop among all countries surveyed. Fatih Birol of the IEA attributed the fall to improvements in fuel efficiency in the transport sector and a significant shift from coal to gas in the power sector. "This is a success story based on a combination of policy and technology - policy driving greater efficiency and technology making shale gas production viable." 
According to the European Environment Agency, coal-to-gas switching has helped to lower greenhouse gas emissions in the EU since the 1990s. Currently, gas-fired power plants in the EU run at only around 33 per cent of their capacity, in part due to gas prices that are about triple the gas prices seen in the U.S. The switch back from gas to coal for power generation has led to an increase of emissions in the past year in some countries. Were EU Member States to switch their power generation fuels from old, high-carbon technologies, such as coal, to newer, lower-carbon and more efficient fossil fuel technologies, such as natural gas, there could be up to a 58 per cent reduction in emissions at relatively low cost relative to 1990, based on today's demand levels, according to CERA.