IEA: Nuclear capacity must grow 80% by 2030

12 November 2008

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has published the latest edition of its World Energy Outlook (WEO). The report states that nuclear capacity must grow to least 1.8 times current capacity by 2030 if global temperature rises are to be kept to 2oC.

Nobou Tanaka, IEA Executive Director, said that "current trends in energy supply and consumption are unsustainable - environmentally, economically and socially" and called for the medium- and longer-term target of secure sustainable energy for all not to be ignored. The current economic climate has, however, effected both investment and policy priorities.

On the current trajectory, the WEO predicts that world temperatures will rise by 6oC. The report explores two alternative scenarios: the '550 policy scenario', where carbon dioxide (CO2) will be stabilised at 550 parts per million (ppm) and temperatures will rise by 3oC; and the '450 policy' scenario, with CO2 stabilising at 450 ppm and temperatures rising by 2oC.

"Limiting temperature rise to 2oC will require significant emission reductions in all regions and technological breakthroughs," according to the IEA. Both scenarios assume that at the meeting of the parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), planned in Copenhagen next year, agreement is reached on global cap and trade policies and that these policies are properly implemented.

Tanaka and Fatih Birol, lead author of the WEO, have stated that, although power generation is only part of the problem, the "energy sector is central to stabilising emissions". At a press conference to launch the latest edition, Birol said, "Two thirds of the reduction must come from power generation sector." To achieve this, Tanaka said, "40% of global generation must be derived from low carbon sources."

"The biggest challenge is to get the developing countries on board," said Birol. He added, "OECD countries roles in energy demand is becoming less and less important - their contribution in net terms to growth of fossil fuel consumption will be negligible."

Tanaka emphasised that "the low price energy age is over." Global energy demand will grow, and just to offset oil field decline another 400 million barrels per day would need to be brought on line. The price of oil is expected to increase and will average $100 per barrel up to 2030, when the price will increase further. Oil will increasingly come from OPEC countries and national companies.

The WEO suggests that $23 trillion dollars of investment is needed to arrive at the '450 policy scenario', 52% of which should be in the power generation sector.  Retiring generation will need to be replaced and new generation brought online to keep up with demand. The credit squeeze could delay investment and cause supply crunch when the world economy begins to stabilise.

"We cannot let the financial and economic crisis delay the policy action that is urgently needed to ensure secure energy supplies and to curtail rising emissions of greenhouse gases. We must usher in a global energy revolution by improving energy efficiency and increasing the deployment of low-carbon energy," said Tanaka.