Johannesburg - Global nuclear generation could more than double by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook.

IEA said world power generation would increase from 23 809 terawatt/hours (TW/h) in 2014 to 34 092TW/h in 2040.

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The agency, which sets out an energy pathway consistent with the goal of limiting the global increase in temperature to 2ºC, said it predicted global nuclear generating capacity to increase from 398 Gigawatt-electrical (GWe) in 2014 to 820GWe in 2040.

“In the case of nuclear, even though one-sixth of the global nuclear fleet is retired in the next decade, overall prospects are buoyed by large new build programmes in a select group of countries led by China, Russia and India,” the IEA said.

The IEA envisaged lower costs for renewable energy technologies. For instance, solar photovoltaics (PV) was expected to see its average cost cut by between 40 percent and 70 percent by 2040 and onshore wind by up to 25 percent. “We see clear winners for the next 25 years - natural gas, but especially wind and solar - replacing the champion of the previous 25 years, coal.

“In practice, government policies will determine where we go from here,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said.

Birol said the next frontier for renewable energy technologies, beyond electricity generation, was to expand into the industrial, building and transportation sectors.

IEA predictions come amid a strong push for nuclear contribution in South Africa’s future energy mix. The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) envisages 9 600MW of new nuclear capacity by 2030.

The Nuclear Industry Association of SA (Niasa) said yesterday that the world energy outlook 2016 scenario, aimed at limiting an increase in global temperatures due to climate change to less than 2ºC, showed global nuclear generation output increasing by almost two-and-a-half times by 2040, compared with the present day, from 2 535TW/h to 6 101TW/h.

Future energy

Niasa said reports supported its view that nuclear energy should be part of a future energy system aimed at meeting the world’s growing energy needs and avoiding the worst effects of climate change.

“In essence, nuclear generation is a cost-competitive low-carbon generation option according to the IEA report. The cost per unit of electricity produced from wind or solar PV being up to 40 percent higher than that from nuclear generation, even without counting the additional costs of connecting to the grid and providing the back-up generation required to compensate for their intermittent supply,” Niasa said.

Managing director Knox Msebenzi said in contrast the South African new build programme scenario costing model and pricing had yet to be finalised, due to delays in the procurement process.

“However, nuclear is still the most viable option from both an environmental and economic standpoint to replace existing environmentally unfriendly base load, which is set to come off line in the near future,” he said.

The government has delayed the release of the long-awaited request for proposals for the nuclear build programme.