Renewables overtaking nuclear in major economies

15 July 2015
By Edd Gent
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Despite new reactors being built renewables are outpacing the growth of nuclear

Despite new reactors being built renewables are outpacing the growth of nuclear

Renewable energy supplies more electricity than nuclear in countries that account for roughly half the world's population, a new industry report shows.

While global nuclear power generation increased by 2.2 per cent in 2014, solar power increased 38 per cent and wind power was up by a tenth, according to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2015.

Among the eight major economies where renewables – excluding hydro-electric dams – now contribute more electricity than atomic energy are China, India and Japan, which is in the midst of the first extended shutdown of its industry for 45 years in response to the 2011 Fukushima meltdown.

"The impressively resilient hopes that many people still have of a global nuclear renaissance are being trumped by a real-time revolution in efficiency plus renewables plus storage, delivering more and more solutions on the ground every year," Jonathon Porritt, co-founder and trustee of the Forum for the Future, wrote in a foreword to the report.

The report's lead authors are industry analysts Mycle Schneider, based in Paris, and London-based Antony Froggatt, who have both advised European government bodies on energy and nuclear policy.

Brazil, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands and Spain make up the remainder of the list of countries generating more electricity from non-hydro renewables than nuclear in terms of total output.

In Britain, output from renewables, including hydro, surpassed atomic generation "for the first time in decades", the report said, while in the USA the share of renewables was 13 per cent, up from 8.5 per cent in 2007.

According to the report, almost half of all added electricity generating capacity in 2014 was from renewables, excluding large hydro-dams.

Nuclear power stations on average produce about twice as much electricity as renewables annually for every kilowatt installed, but the high growth in solar, wind and other renewables means atomic power is fast being eclipsed.

This is in part due to improvements in renewable technology as greater efficiency and better management of fluctuating renewable supplies is realised alongside advances in electricity storage.

At the same time, the nuclear industry is battling rising costs, construction delays, aging fleets of reactors and public opposition, especially in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, which has put pressure on governments to move away from nuclear energy.

Discounting Japan's moribund nuclear industry due to its long-term outage, the report said the world's operating units numbered 391 in 2014, up three from a year earlier but 47 less than a 2002 peak.

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