National policies to shape future energy sector, says IEA

16 November 2016

There will be "major transformations in the global energy system over the next decades" as government policies to combat climate change and energy efficiency measures take effect, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Nuclear generating capacity, it says, could more than double by 2040.

In the World Energy Outlook 2016, published today, the IEA presents three scenarios for the world's energy mix up to 2040. The New Policies Scenario looks at the impact of existing government policies and commitments on energy demand, supplies and investments. The Current Policies Scenario only includes policies that are firmly enacted, providing a benchmark. The 450 Scenario demonstrates a pathway to limit long-term global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

World power generation will increase from 23,809 TWh in 2014 to 34,092 TWh in 2040, according to the IEA's 450 Scenario. In this scenario, global nuclear generating capacity increases from 398 GWe in 2014 to 820 GWe in 2040. Nuclear output would grow from 2535 TWh to 6101 TWh over this period, when it will account for 18% of total electricity production.

"In the case of nuclear, even though one-sixth of the global nuclear fleet is retired in the next decade (80% of this in OECD countries), overall prospects are buoyed by large new build programs in a select group of countries led by China, Russia and India," the IEA said.

Climate goals

"A detailed analysis of the pledges made for the Paris Agreement on climate change finds that the era of fossil fuels appears far from over and underscores the challenge of reaching more ambitious climate goals," the IEA said in a statement.

Although it calls the Paris Agreement - which entered into force on 4 November - a "major step forward in the fight against global warming", the IEA said "meeting more ambitious climate goals will be extremely challenging and require a step change in the pace of decarbonization and efficiency". It says implementing current international pledges will only slow down the projected rise in energy-related carbon emissions from an average of 650 million tonnes per year since 2000 to around 150 million tonnes per year in 2040.

"While this is a significant achievement, it is far from enough to avoid the worst impact of climate change as it would only limit the rise in average global temperatures to 2.7°C by 2100," the IEA said. "The path to 2°C is tough, but it can be achieved if policies to accelerate further low carbon technologies and energy efficiency are put in place across all sectors."

The IEA said the 2°C target is achievable if carbon emissions peak in the next few years and that the global economy becomes carbon neutral by the end of the century.

"The frontlines for additional emissions reductions are in the power sector, via accelerated deployment of renewables, nuclear power (where politically acceptable) and carbon capture and storage; a strong push for greater electrification and efficiency across all end-uses; and a robust and concerted clean energy research and development effort by governments and companies," according to the IEA.

Agneta Rising, director general of the World Nuclear Association, said: "We must meet the world's growing energy needs and protect the planet. We will need all low-carbon energy options to work together to achieve this, and nuclear will make a major contribution, because it is scalable, reliable and competitive."

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