IEA sees global energy transition

10 November 2015

There are signs of a global energy transition, with low-carbon technologies expected to generate almost half of the world's electricity by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Nuclear's share of global electricity generation is set to remain around the current level.

In the 2015 edition of its World Energy Outlook issued in London today, the IEA said installed power generation capacity will reach 10,570 GW in 2040, an increase of some 4400 GW over the level in 2014. To keep pace with strong electricity demand growth, installed capacity more than doubles in non-OECD countries, led by China (where capacity doubles) and India (where capacity almost quadruples).

"There are clear signs that an energy transition is under way," the IEA said. "The energy mix changes markedly over time and varies by region," it said. "The shift is highly influenced by the nature of policies put in place, particularly those aimed at decarbonizing the sector, in addition to economic factors, such as the capital cost of power generation technologies and fuel prices."

The links between global economic growth, energy demand and energy-related emissions are set to weaken, the IEA suggests. Some markets - such as China - are expected to undergo structural change in their economies and others reach a saturation point in demand for energy services.

The IEA said the global power generation mix is set to shift away from coal, the share of which falls from 41% today to 30% in 2040, after holding steady since 1990. The share of low-carbon technologies in total generation increases from one-third in 2013 to 47% in 2040, due to the growth of non-hydro renewables and a stable share of nuclear and hydropower.

Renewables will overtake coal as the largest source of electricity by the early-2030s and account for more than half of all growth over the period to 2040, the IEA said.

Under the IEA's central scenario, output from nuclear power plants is forecast to increase from 2478 TWh in 2013 to 4606 TWh by 2040. Expansion in China accounts for almost half of incremental nuclear generation. However, nuclear's share of global electricity generation is expected to remain around the same level of 12%.

Between 2015 and 2040, some 148 GW of nuclear generating capacity will be retired, the IEA says. During the same period, however, about 365 GW on new nuclear capacity will be brought online.

Emission targets

Since 1990, power generation and related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have risen "on a one-to-one basis", the IEA said. However, between 2013 and 2040, the two are expected to decouple. While generation increases almost 70%, CO2 emissions will rise less than 15%. According to the IEA, without efficiency gains and less coal in the mix, emissions from power generation would be almost 50% higher in 2040.

The IEA says that, according to its central scenario, the growth in energy-related emissions will "slow dramatically, but the emissions trajectory implies a long-term temperature increase of 2.7°C by 2100". It added, "A major course correction is still required to achieve the world's agreed climate goal."

The IEA noted that, ahead of the COP21 climate meeting in Paris next month, over 150 countries - representing 90% of global economic activity and nearly 90% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions - have submitted pledges to reduce emissions. These pledges would require cumulative investment of $13.5 trillion in low-carbon technologies and energy efficiency by 2030.

Fatih Birol, IEA chief economist, said: "World leaders meeting in Paris must set a clear direction for the accelerated transformation of the global energy sector. The IEA stands ready to support the implementation of an agreement reached in Paris with all of the instruments at our disposal, to track progress, promote better policies and support the technology innovation that can fulfil the world's hopes for a safe and sustainable energy future."

Birol said the IEA will recommend four measures to the COP meeting in order for emission targets to be met. Firstly, it wants that the coverage of mandatory energy efficiency policies need to be accelerated; secondly, support for renewable energies need to increase; thirdly, a ban on the construction of new inefficient coal-fired power plants; and lastly, a reduction in methane emissions from oil and gas production.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News