EIA: World Generation to Increase 84% in 25 Years

World electricity generation is projected to increase 84% from 19.1 trillion kWh in 2008 to 35.2 trillion kWh in 2035—growth that will be driven by increasing demand in developing countries, the Energy Information Agency’s (EIA’s) recently released International Energy Outlook 2011 shows. Much of this growth will be from renewables and natural gas, though coal generation will also increase in developing countries, and particularly, in China and India.

Although the 2008-2009 global economic recession slowed the rate of growth in electricity use in 2008 and resulted in negligible change in electricity use in 2009, demand returned in 2010, led by strong recoveries in non-OECD economies,” the federal statistical energy agency says. “In general, in OECD countries, where electricity markets are well established and consumption patterns are mature, the growth of electricity demand is slower than in non-OECD countries, where a large amount of potential demand remains unmet.”

Total net electricity generation in developing countries increases by an average of 3.3% per year in the reference case, led by non-OECD Asia—including China and India—where annual increases average 4.0% from 2008 to 2035. In contrast, net generation among developed nations grows by an average of 1.2% per year from 2008 to 2035, the report says.

Renewables to Lead the Charge

Much of this growth will be from renewable energy sources—which are the fastest growing sources of electricity generation. They are projected to grow at 3.1% per year from 2008 to 2035 mostly due to to concerns about security of energy supplies and the environmental consequences of greenhouse gas emissions, the agency says.

About 82% of the rapid increase in renewable generation will come from hydropower and wind power, the agency says. The contribution of wind energy, in particular, has grown swiftly over the past decade, from 18 GW of net installed capacity at the end of 2000 to 121 GW at the end of 2008—a trend that is expected to continue into the future. Of the 4.6 trillion kWh of new renewable generation added over the projection period, 2.5 trillion kWh (55%) is attributed to hydroelectric power and 1.3 trillion kWh (27%) to wind.

The majority of the hydroelectric growth (85%) is forecast for developing countries, while a slight majority of wind generation growth (58%) is expected in the 34 OECD countries. “High construction costs can make the total cost to build and operate renewable generators higher than those for conventional plants,” the EIA projects. “The intermittence of wind and solar, in particular, can further hinder the economic competitiveness of those resources, as they are not operator-controlled and are not necessarily available when they would be of greatest value to the system.” 

The agency says that “improving battery storage technology and dispersing wind and solar generating facilities over wide geographic areas” could mitigate many of the problems associated with intermittency over the projection period.

Coal Use to Surge

Coal will also see a spurt—particularly in the absence of national policies and/or binding international agreements that would limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions—and coal generation will most increase in China and India.

Installed coal-fired generating capacity in China nearly doubles in the reference case from 2008 to 2035, and coal use in China’s industrial sector grows by 67%. “The development of China’s electric power and industrial sectors will require not only large-scale infrastructure investments but also substantial investment in both coal mining and coal transportation infrastructure,” the agency says.  In India, coal-fired generating capacity rises from 99 GW in 2008 to 172 GW in 2035, a 72% increase.

Natural Gas Also Sees a Spurt, Nuclear Growth Still Uncertain

After renewables, natural gas is forecast to be the second-fastest growing generation source, increasing 2.6% per year. Future generation from renewables, natural gas, and to a lesser extent nuclear power displaces coal-fired generation, although coal remains the largest source of world electricity through 2035, the study forecasts.

Power generation from nuclear power worldwide will increase from 2.6 trillion kWh in 2008 to 4.9 trillion kWh in 2035 in the reference case, as concerns about energy security and greenhouse gas emissions support the development of new nuclear generating capacity. In addition, world average capacity utilization rates have continued to rise over time, from about 65% in 1990 to about 80% today, with some increases still anticipated in the future.

But “there is still considerable uncertainty about the future of nuclear power, and a number of issues could slow the development of new nuclear power plants,” the EIA says. Issues related to plant safety, radioactive waste disposal, and proliferation of nuclear materials continue to raise public concerns in many countries and may hinder plans for new installations. High capital and maintenance costs also may keep some countries from expanding their nuclear power programs.

Another setback for the nuclear industry will be the lack of trained labor resources, as well as limited global manufacturing capacity for certain components. Both could keep national nuclear programs from advancing quickly, the agency projects. “Finally, although the long-term implications of the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant for world nuclear power development are unknown, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy have already announced plans to phase out or cancel all their existing and future reactors. Those plans, and new policies that other countries may adopt in response to the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, although not reflected in the IEO2011 projections, indicate that some reduction in the projection for nuclear power should be expected,” it says.

The agency’s projections correspond with revised projections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Senior IAEA official Hans-Holger Rogner told reporters on Tuesday that nuclear power “at best maintains its current market share" over the next two decades.  The IAEA expects the number of reactors to increase by between 90 and 350 to 2030 beyond the current 432 units now operating.

Even in the high-growth scenario the market share will not change much from last year’s 13.5% of total electricity generation, rising to 14% in 2030 before falling to 13.5% in 2050, the IAEA forecast said. In the low projection the share of nuclear power would fall to 11.8% in 2030 and 6.2% in 2050.

Both the IAEA and EIA find that  China, Russia, and India will account for the largest increment in world net installed nuclear capacity from 2008 to 2035. China will add a stunning 106 GW of nuclear capacity over the period, Russia will add 28 GW, and India will add 24 GW, the agency projects.

Sources: POWERnews, EIA, IAEA, Reuters

SHARE this article