Double nuclear by 2040 says Exxon

13 September 2013

World electricity demand is likely to grow by over 80% by 2040, and nuclear energy capacity will need to double to help to meet it, according to figures from Exxon Mobil. The company's analysis triggered a lively exchange at the WNA Annual Symposium in London.

Panel session (WNA)_460
Panellists discuss the energy future at the WNA Symposium

Exxon Mobil's 2013 Outlook for Energy bases its findings on data from 100 countries across the globe, looking at 15 demand centres and 20 fuel types. It also takes into consideration the technology and policy issues underpinning the world's energy situation, Exxon Mobil technology advisor David Khemakhem explained to delegates at the World Nuclear Association's Annual Symposium. Latest figures indicate that, with world population anticipated to be close to 9 billion by 2040, energy demand will continue to increase. Electricity demand will drive that growth.

Exxon's figures suggest that world nuclear capacity could be set to double to help meet that demand, as the cheapest form of low-CO2 electricity generation: other options such as onshore wind and solar photovoltaics have significant knock-on grid costs, Khemakhem remarked.

Exxon Mobil's figures spurred a lively and wide-ranging debate amongst Khemakhem's fellow speakers in a panel discussion on energy and nuclear power. Ron Cameron, head of nuclear development at the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), led a call for greater transparency over prices across the energy sector. Growth in renewables of the scale seen in recent years had been made possible through subsidies, but the way subsidies had been handled in some countries had been an "economic disaster", he said. Consumers were effectively being asked to pay for the transition into renewables, he said, pleading for the hidden costs of renewables to be made clear, with no disconnect between wholesale cost of electricity and the price. "Affordability is an issue," he remarked.

Nuclear should be seen as complementary to rather than in competition with renewables, the panellists felt. Nuclear could play a vital role in providing affordable baseload power to support the intermittent nature of many renewables, in the absence of a truly effective and affordable means of storing electricity. Energy policy, climate change, and carbon trading expert Bryony Worthington, representing The Weinberg Foundation, urged the nuclear industry not to waste any energy "talking down" renewables, and pointed to the emergence of new third-party advocates opening up the nuclear debate to new audiences.

Also on the panel, moderated by MZ Consulting president Milton Caplan, were Areva UK CEO Robert Davies, UX Consulting Company senior vice president Jonathan Hinze and energy strategist John Licata. All joined in enthusiastically in a lively discussion on the shape the nuclear generation sector may take in the coming decades, from large-capacity reactors to the role of smaller reactors such as SMRs and the need for energy security, with Licata drawing on his own experience and analysis of the effects of "superstorm Sandy", which left large areas of the eastern USA without power in October 2012.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News