Primary Energy and Electricity Outlook

World Electricity Consumption Graph

With the United Nations predicting world population growth from 6.7 billion in 2011 to 8.7 billion by 2035, demand for energy must increase substantially over that period. Both population growth and increasing standards of living for many people in developing countries will cause strong growth in energy demand. Over 70% of the increased energy demand is from developing countries, led by China and India – China overtook the USA as top carbon dioxide (“CO2”) emitter in 2007. Superimposed on this, the UN Population Division projects an ongoing trend of urbanization, from 52% in 2011 to 62% in 2035 and reaching 70% worldwide by 2050, enabling world population to stabilize at about 9 billion with better food supply, clean water, sanitation, health, education and communication facilities.

Coal is not limited globally, but large amounts need to be moved from where it is plentiful to where it is needed, mainly for power generation. This has both economic and carbon emission implications (apart from actually burning it). Natural gas is abundant and increasingly traded over long distances, with supplies in several countries increasing due to technology enabling access to gas in shale beds. Oil is more limited, in 2012 global production increased to almost 76 million barrels per day (27 billion barrels/yr), and known reserves increased 8% to 1600 billion barrels. In the World Energy Outlook 2013 New Policies scenario, coal demand increases 0.7% per year from 2011 to 2035, gas increases 1.6% pa, and oil increases 1.1% pa to 2020 then 0.4% pa. For electricity, coal use increases 35% to 2035 thus reducing its share of generation from 41% to 33%, gas increases 72% so that its share remains at 22%, nuclear increases 66% pa to hold its 12% share, and renewables other than hydro increase 483%.

Nuclear Power
Nuclear power generation is an established part of the world's electricity mix providing in 2011 some 11.6% of world electricity of 22,202 TWh (cf. coal 41.2%, oil 4.8%, natural gas 21.8%, hydro 16.1% and other 4.5%). It is especially suitable for large-scale, continuous electricity demand which requires reliability (i.e. base-load), and hence ideally matched to increasing urbanization worldwide.

The World Energy Outlook highlights the increasing importance of nuclear power in meeting energy needs while achieving security of supply and minimizing carbon dioxide emissions. The 2006 edition of this report warned that if policies remained unchanged, world energy demand to 2030 is forecast to increase by 53% accompanied by supply crises, giving a "dirty, insecure and expensive" energy future which would be unsustainable. The report showed that nuclear power could make a major contribution to reducing dependence on imported gas and curbing CO2 emissions in a cost-effective way, since its uranium fuel is abundant. However governments needed to play a stronger role in facilitating private investment, especially in liberalized electricity markets where the trade-off between security and low price had been a disincentive to investment in new plant and grid infrastructure.

The World Energy Outlook 2009 report said that investment of US$ 25.6 trillion* would be required by 2030 under the reference scenario, and $10.5 trillion more under an alternative low-carbon energy scenario.