17 Jul (NucNet): Global investment in nuclear power declined by nearly 45% to $17bn in 2017 due to a 70% fall in spending on new plants coming online during the year to $9 billion, which more than offset an increase in spending on existing plants, a report published today by the International Energy Agency says.
Of the four new reactors commissioned, three were in China, the World Energy Investment report said. Over 5 GW was retired in 2017, leading to a net reduction of about 2 GW in total nuclear capacity worldwide, although capacity was still about 10 GW higher than in 2007.
While around 60 GW of nuclear power remains under construction worldwide, new construction starts in 2017 – in China, Bangladesh and South Korea –totalled just over 3 GW.
Nuclear additions over the past 10 years have occurred mostly in Asia, led by China and South Korea, while retirements of nuclear capacity were mainly in Europe, the US and Japan, where nuclear fleets are older and face higher economic pressures from lower electricity market prices, in addition to local acceptance issues, the report said.
Spending on lifetime extensions for existing nuclear plants rose, with extensions potentially providing “a cost-effective transitional measure” for supporting low-carbon generation.
Spending on upgrades of existing reactors now represents around half of total nuclear investment.
In general, spending on existing plants yields more output per dollar invested. “Assuming these plants run an extra 10 years, generation from lifetime extensions over the past five years is equivalent to 15% of expected lifetime output from solar PV and wind investments over the same period, at just 3% of the cost,” the report said.
In some regions, retirements of existing nuclear plants are reducing the impact of the growth in renewables.
In Europe, the decline in nuclear generation since 2010 has offset over 40% of the growth in solar PV and wind output.
For the third consecutive year, global energy investment declined, to $1.8 trillion in 2017, a fall of 2% in real terms, the report said. This was mainly due to stagnation in fossil fuel spending and lower capacity additions of coal, hydro and nuclear power plants.
The share of clean power sources – renewables and nuclear – in generation investment was over 70% in 2017, up from less than 50% a decade ago, though this stems partly from lower coal-fired power investment.
The report warns of a “worrying” pause in the shift to clean energy after global investment in renewables fell 7% to $318bn last year.
The IEA said the decline is set to continue into 2018, threatening energy security, climate change and air pollution goals.
Fossil fuels increased their share of energy supply investment for the first time since 2014, to $790bn, and will play a significant role for years on current trends, the IEA said.
The report is online: https://www.iea.org/wei2018/