China to drive global nuclear power growth

26 January 2017

China's rapid nuclear expansion program is expected to account for nearly three-quarters of the global increase in nuclear generation by 2035, according to the latest Energy Outlook from oil and gas giant BP.

BP says that while the world economy will almost double between 2015 and 2035, energy demand will increase by only around 30%. Energy consumption, it says, is expected to grow less quickly than in the past: 1.3% per year in the 2015-2035 period, compared with annual growth of 2.2% in 1995-2015.

The latest Energy Outlook expects oil, gas and coal to remain the dominant sources of energy, accounting for more than three-quarters of total global energy supplies in 2035, down from 85% in 2015.

Almost two-thirds of the increase in global energy consumption over the 2015-2035 period is used for power generation, BP says. As a result, the share of energy used for power generation rises from 42% in 2015 to 47% by 2035.

In BP's base case, carbon emissions from energy use increase by about 13% between 2015 and 2035. This, it says, is far in excess of the International Energy Agency's 450 Scenario which suggests carbon emissions need to fall by around 30% by 2035 to have a good chance of achieving the goals set out in the Paris climate change agreement. However, BP notes emissions are projected to grow at less than one-third of the rate seen in the past 20 years. This, it says, would be the slowest rate of emissions growth for any 20 year period since BP's records began in 1965.

Nuclear power generation is expected to grow 2.3% per annum, with its share of primary energy consumption over the 2015-2035 period set to increase from 4% to 5%, BP says.

BP sees nuclear generating capacity in Europe declining as older plants are gradually decommissioned and there is little new investment. It expects the EU's nuclear power generation to be 30% lower by 2035 than in 2015. Japan is assumed to restart some of its reactors gradually by 2025, but does not recover to pre-Fukushima levels. However, China's nuclear generating capacity is expected to grow 11% per annum by 2035, accounting for almost three-quarters of the global increase in nuclear generation.

Renewable energy sources are expected to account for 40% of the growth in power generation, leading to an increase in their share of global power from 7% in 2015 to nearly 20% by 2035.

BP chief executive Bob Dudley said, "The global energy landscape is changing. Traditional centres of demand are being overtaken by fast-growing emerging markets. The energy mix is shifting, driven by technological improvements and environmental concerns."

He said a central feature of this energy transition is the continued gradual decarbonisation of the fuel mix. "Rapid improvements in the competitiveness of renewable energy mean that increases in renewables, together with nuclear and hydro energy, provide around half of the increase in global energy out to 2035."

The World Nuclear Association has developed its own vision for the future of electricity, referred to as Harmony. This is based on the International Energy Agency's 2-degree scenario which aims to avoid the most damaging consequences of climate change and requires a large increase in nuclear energy. Harmony envisages a diverse mix of low-carbon generating technologies deployed in such a manner that the benefits of each are maximised while the negative impacts are minimised. The Association's target for nuclear energy is to provide 25% of electricity in 2050, requiring roughly 1000 GWe of new nuclear capacity to be constructed.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News