by Greg Klein | May 16, 2016
Projected to grow 2.4% annually, nuclear power will remain one of the most important means of generating electricity, says a new report. With last week’s release of International Energy Outlook 2016, the U.S. Energy Information Administration looked at energy markets from 2012 to 2040. Electricity continues to be “the world’s fastest-growing form of end-use energy consumption.”
The report foresees world net electricity generation increasing 69% by 2040, from 21.6 trillion kilowatt-hours in 2012 to 25.8 trillion kWh in 2020 and 36.5 trillion kWh in 2040.
Renewables will be the fastest-growing source of electricity, with annual increases averaging 2.9%. Natural gas follows with 2.7% a year, then nuclear with 2.4% a year. That increase would almost double nuclear generation from 2.3 trillion kWh in 2012 to 4.5 trillion kWh in 2040.
The EIA sees most of nuclear’s increase coming from emerging countries outside the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The only OECD nation planning a significant increase is South Korea, with an additional 15 GW. Despite that, reductions in Canada, OECD Europe and Japan would cut total OECD nuclear capacity by six GW.
The trend changes radically with non-OECD countries, especially China, India, other Asian economies and the Middle East. The report sees 9.6% average growth in China, adding 139 GW from 2012 to 2040. India would expand by 7.9% for 36 GW. Other non-OECD Asian economies would average 2.9% to add eight GW. Even the oil-rich Middle East would increase nuclear capacity from less than one GW in 2012 to 22 GW in 2030, according to the report.
Uranium prices, however, seem oblivious to such robust projections. At a shareholders meeting last week, Cameco Corp TSX:CCO president/CEO Tim Gitzel bemoaned “levels not seen since 2005.” Having put Rabbit Lake on care and maintenance the previous month, the miner cut its 2016 guidance from 30 million pounds to 25.7 million pounds U3O8.
But noting that the world has more than 60 reactors under construction, Gitzel predicted demand rising about 3% annually, from 170 million pounds this year to 220 million in 2025. “That equates to about three to four more Cigar Lakes being required over those same 10 years—not an easy task, as we know by experience.”
The EIA concedes its projections “are not statements of what will happen, but what might happen given the specific assumptions and methodologies used for any particular scenario.”