EIA predicts up to 4% fall in nuclear share of US generation by 2040

16 April 2015

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that, between 2013 and 2040, nuclear power's share of total generation in the USA will fall from 19% to 15% in its High Oil and Gas Resource case and to 18% in its High Oil Price case, where higher natural gas prices lead to additional growth in nuclear capacity. EIA published its predictions in its Annual Energy Outlook 2015 (AEO2015), which focuses on the factors expected to shape the country's energy markets by 2040.

Electricity generation from nuclear units reflects the impacts of planned and unplanned builds and retirements, EIA said.

Total electricity use in the AEO2015 Reference case, including both purchases from electric power producers and on-site generation, grows by an average of 0.8% per year, from 3836 TWh in 2013 to 4797 TWh in 2040.

"The relatively slow rate of growth in demand, combined with rising natural gas prices, environmental regulations, and continuing growth in renewable generation, leads to tradeoffs between the fuels used for electricity generation," EIA said.

From 2000 to 2012, electricity generation from natural gas-fired plants more than doubled as natural gas prices fell to relatively low levels. In the AEO2015 Reference case, natural gas-fired generation remains below 2012 levels until after 2025, while generation from existing coal-fired plants and new nuclear and renewable plants increases. In the longer term, natural gas fuels more than 60% of the new generation needed from 2025 to 2040, and growth in generation from renewable energy supplies most of the remainder.

Generation from coal and nuclear energy "remains fairly flat", EIA said, as high utilization rates at existing units and high capital costs and long lead times for new units mitigate growth in nuclear and coal-fired generation.

Total electricity generation increases by 24% from 2013 to 2040 in the Reference case but varies significantly with different economic assumptions, ranging from a 15% increase in the Low Economic Growth case to a 37% increase in the High Economic Growth case.

"High construction costs for nuclear plants limit their competitiveness to meet new demand in the Reference case," EIA said.

"In the near term, 5.5 GWe of planned additions are put into place by 2020, offset by 3.2 GWe of retirements over the same period. After 2025, 3.5 GWe of additional nuclear capacity is built. In the High Economic Growth and High Oil Price cases, an additional 10 GWe to 13 GWe of nuclear capacity above the Reference case is added by 2040 to meet demand growth, as a result of higher costs for the alternative technologies and/or higher capacity requirements," it said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News