Nuclear power is one technology that must be accelerated, promoted and relied upon if the world is to stabilise carbon dioxide emissions at an acceptable level. Doing so would put hundreds of billions into the industry.
The message comes from the International Energy Agency's (IEA's) annual World Energy Outlook analysis, which this year sees the early release of a section on climate change.
Dividing the world into a few large sections, the IEA considers the policy options for each in a scenario which achieves stabilisation at 450 parts per million carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere by 2030 after an emissions peak around 2020.
Such an endeavour is expected to require some $12 trillion in investment beyond the 'business as usual' reference scenario, with the bulk going on energy efficiency and modernisation of the transport fleet. The
Following the '450' path
could see investment in
nuclear power boosted
by $125 billion in 2010-
2020, stepping up to
$491 billion in the
decade to 2030.
next biggest slice is construction of low-carbon power generation, which could see $735 billion in the period 2010-2020 and a further $3.78 trillion to 2030. These numbers are daunting, the IEA admitted, but the cost of the '450 Scenario' would be offset by savings in pollution control amounting to $100 billion per year while income from oil would remain four times higher than the period from 1987-2007.
The report is not meant to suggest policy or influence debate ahead of the Copenhagen talks but to illustrate what the power sector could achieve under "a plausible set of commitments and policies which could emerge."
It suggests a cap-and-trade agreement for the whole of the OECD group of developed nations after 2010, with other major countries (Brazil, China, the Middle East, Russia and South Africa) setting up their own version from 2021. Separate from these would be international sectoral approaches for certain industries such as transport. Carbon dioxide emissions would be expected to reach a cost of $50 per tonne in the OECD by 2020. By 2030 they could reach $110 in the OECD and $65 the other countries' system.
The IEA said the world would need "an expanded, reformed Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)" to ensure that all regions can contribute, while attracting investment, and achieving economic development and cleaner technologies at the same time.
It suggested "much faster roll-out of renewables and nuclear - and urgent investment in carbon capture and storage," while the richest countries should "facilitate the transfer of low-carbon technologies... through international sectoral agreements, the purchase of carbon credits and other measures."
Following the '450' path could see investment in nuclear power boosted by $125 billion in 2010-2020, stepping up to $491 billion in the decade to 2030. This would come in addition to growth already planned for nuclear power and would save an extra 1.87 billion tonnes in emissions per year.
Japan should accelerate the construction of nuclear power plants while raising the performance of its existing ones to achieve a greater than 40% share of nuclear in total electricity generation by 2030, said the IEA. Its neighbour China should continue its "ambitious" policy to have nuclear, wind and solar make up 16% of power supplies by 2020.
Other countries were told to diversify energy supply to obtain greater reliance on renewables and nuclear while India should accelerate investment in nuclear power, promote renewables and expand the CDM to new sectors.
The early release of the section was hailed by Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. He said it came in the "critical final stretch of the negotiations ahead of the landmark climate change conference in Copenhagen this year."