China will have the world’s largest nuclear power fleet within a decade, while most of the units in longstanding nuclear regions – Japan, the European Union and the USA – are facing the end of their original 40-year design lifetime, Brent Wanner, lead of World Energy Outlook Power Sector Modelling & Analysis at the International Energy Agency (IEA), said yesterday. Without policy support for the long-term operation of the existing fleet, this trend is certain to continue, he told delegates at the High-Level Workshop on Nuclear Power in Clean Energy Transitions, which the IEA held jointly with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
In an articulation to present the seminar, the IEA and IAEA noticed that, from 2020 to 2050, worldwide electricity request is projected to dramatically increase. Be that as it may, in cutting edge economies where nuclear addresses the biggest wellspring of low-carbon electricity, nuclear power is losing ground, with plants shutting and restricted interest in new development when the world requires all the more low-carbon electricity. This is regardless of the way that spotless energy changes are speeding up around the world, with responsibilities settled on under the Paris Agreement and an expanding number of promises to arrive at net-zero discharges around the center of the century.
Facilitating the first of the occasion’s two meetings – The part of Nuclear Power in Electricity: Trends and Projections – Banner noticed that, as a develop business low-carbon innovation, nuclear power can make a significant commitment, given the vital energy approaches and market plans are set up to work with interests in dispatchable, low-carbon power generation technologies.
Citing the IEA’s Global Energy Review 2020 report, released in April last year, Banner said that, with a 10% share, nuclear is still the second largest source of low-carbon electricity, after hydropower. But as IEA data published this week show, there has already been a rebound in global emissions following the drop in electricity demand during the pandemic, he said. Global energy-related CO2 emissions fell by 5.8% in 2020, primarily due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on travel and economic activities. However, after hitting a low in April, global emissions rebounded strongly and rose above 2019 levels in December.
“In the advanced economies, including the United States, the European Union and Japan, nuclear power is actually the largest source of low-carbon electricity generation, providing more than hydropower, but also more than wind and solar PV combined, and it has done so for the last 30 years,” Banner said. “The extent and the duration it’s been a part of the energy system over the past 50 years means that nuclear power has helped avoid more than 60 billion tons of CO2 emissions worldwide. That’s the equivalent of two years of global energy-related emissions today. Without nuclear power, CO2 emissions from electricity generation would have been almost 20% higher. Over this long period of time, nuclear power has contributed to the stability also of electricity systems, as it did in 2020.”
This drawn out the commitment implies anyway that the nuclear fleet is maturing.
“As of the start of 2019, we see the average age of nuclear plants in the United States was approaching 40 years, in Canada and the EU it was around 35 years, and in Japan it was around 30 years. And with original design life times and for licenses to operate for 40 years, that means there are coming decisions for the majority of the nuclear fleet in these regions about what will happen beyond that,” he said.
The commitment of nuclear power could decrease generously in a few leading markets while huge development is coming, as China takes first situation inside 10 years, he said.
“Where there’s been recent growth, particularly in China, the fleet of nuclear reactors is much smaller. And this gives a view into the future of nuclear power. The World Energy Outlook shows that, on the one hand, we have ageing fleets in advanced economies and very little construction going on, meaning that we will have a decline in production in the overall active nuclear fleets, moving forward over the next two decades. Then growth will largely be occurring, particularly in China, which will have the largest nuclear fleet by 2030. There is continued growth in Russia, but also in India and the Middle East. This is a shift in the center of gravity over nuclear technologies in the world.”
Solar PV is presently the least expensive electricity in many nations and is set to significantly increase before 2030 under the WEO’s ‘expressed arrangements’ situation, close by development for wind power. Yet, all low-carbon advancements are required, he said. “Over the next 20 years, solar PV is the new king of electricity. It will be the largest, fastest growing source of electricity worldwide. There’s a major switch from what happened in the last 20 years, from where coal was king, to where solar is very clearly king.
In the event that the WEO’s ‘feasible turn of events’ situation is followed, the development of low-carbon age will be a lot bigger and a lot quicker, “pushing out unabated coal-fired generation very rapidly”, he added.
There are three main reasons why solar PV is growing so rapidly, he said. Firstly, the costs of new projects are amongst the lowest of any source of electricity in most countries. Secondly, there is policy support for solar PV in more than 130 countries. And thirdly, financing tends to be very cheap, in part because of that policy support. “Those are conditions that we see also for wind power, but less so for nuclear power and carbon capture and storage,” he said.
“We shouldn’t forget that nuclear power is part of a cost-effective energy transition. In our analysis, where we have further lifetime extensions for nuclear power plants in countries that are open to that option, and where continued safe operations continue, in our ‘sustainable development’ scenario, there’s modest investment in nuclear power, but that helps take advantage of the existing sites and electricity networks, and keeps investment as modest as possible in these clean energy transitions. And so the cost-effective pathway we see is investment in the order of USD8.5-9 trillion over the next 20 years, whereas if we do not extend the lifetime of nuclear reactors, and we shift the focus even more on to renewables – which is going to be the dominant source of low-carbon generation in all of these scenarios – that will increase the overall investment needed and the overall costs, not only the investment in those technologies but also in the supporting grids and balancing requirements.”
His comments underlined the determination of a new IEA and OECD Nuclear Energy Agency report, Projected Costs of Generating Electricity – 2020 Edition, that electricity from the drawn-out activity of existing nuclear plants comprises the smallest expense choice for low-carbon age.
Electricity investment needs to increase to lead clean energy transitions, but without nuclear complementing renewables, total investment rises by more than 15%, Banner said.
Underlining the importance of the IEA’s plan to publish later this year the world’s first comprehensive roadmap for the energy sector to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, Banner said: “First we need to recognize that the stated policies, including the Nationally Determined Contributions, but also the net-zero by 2050 commitments that have been announced, will not bring us all the way to where we need to go. And there is a need to sit with experts, regionally and globally, to explore the opportunities for nuclear power both in decarbonizing electricity and in other applications, including decarbonizing heat and potentially other fuel supplies through the production of hydrogen, for example.”
The net-zero by 2050 pledges declared so far, including China’s ambition to reach net-zero emissions by 2060, “only cover about half of the gap” between the WEO’s ‘stated policies’ scenario and ‘sustainable development’ scenario, he said. “This calls for a much sharper reductions, getting to about 10 giga tons by 2050, and of course that’s to say nothing of reaching net-zero emissions by then.”