Climate change

December 15, 2010

SNE 2060 – a multi-source energy supply scenario

Filed under: Climate Change, Emissions Reduction — buildeco @ 8:57 am

by Barry Brook

In this post, I develop a hypothetical multi-energy-supply scenario for global low-emissions electricity in ~2060. The assumed energy mix is 75 % nuclear fission and 25 % non-nuclear sources, with fossil fuel use virtually eliminated except where it is used with carbon capture and storage.

The % annual growth rate (GR) of energy supplied assumes an exponential rate of change from today’s levels over a 50-year period. It is consistent with (actually, better than) the IPCC WG III greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. World total supply (277 EJ) matches the demand forecast in the previous post.

The future energy mix scenario offered in Table 1 should not be considered a forecast — it is better thought of as a ‘working hypothesis’ (sensu Elliott and Brook, 2007).

Table 1

Nameplate (installed) capacity is approximate, based on average capacity factors of hydro 0.45 (world average for 2006), wind/solar 0.3, other 0.5, biomass 0.85, fossil CCS 0.85, nuclear 0.9. These capacity factors are similar to those generated today, but are only used to estimate the nameplate column of the table above, and don’t affect the EJ supply column.

In this scenario, all existing non-fossil-fuel energy sources are expected to increase, with the highest rates of growth anticipated for wind/solar and nuclear fission. Comparing and contrasting my 2060 scenario with that of Trainer (2010, his Table 1), I (optimistically in all cases) have:

1. Hydro growing by 50% on today’s energy share (similar to Trainer’s 19 EJ)

2. Fossil fuels with CCS increases to a level similar to that of hydro (this is one third of the maximum 51 EJ allocated by Trainer)

3. Biomass and waste used for direct electricity generation increases by 50%; the majority of crop energy is used to supply 15 EJ of ethanol

4. Wind and solar output collectively expands 40-fold on today’s levels

5. Nuclear fission growth is then used to balance the total demand. This results in a 21-fold increase on today’s share of ~310 GWe average

The final ratio of 75% nuclear fission to 25% non-nuclear energy sources is similar to the national domestic electricity mix of France today (but the French are, of course, still reliant on oil, and haven’t yet taken they synfuel production step that will be necessary as oil/gas supplies run down).

This general forecast is also consistent with the conclusions of Jean-Baptiste and Ducroux (2003). In reality, there may be considerably greater or lesser supply from any of these low-carbon energy sources, but this depends on a broad range of complex factors, including carbon prices, subsidies and tariffs, energy security considerations, fossil fuel supply constraints, and technological, logistical, economic and socio-political circumstances (Hoffert et al., 2002).

The Table 1 scenario is simply offered for evaluation, as one possible which is able to meeta number of first-order logical, plausibility and sustainability criteria. Note that it is less demanding than the more pessimistic TR2 scenario described here. I will use the nuclear supply value of 7,300 GWe nameplate capacity (6,500 GWe average) for all future projections in the SNE2060 series.

Having arrived at what I consider a scientifically justifiable scenario, I will now turn back to modelling. The next few posts in the SNE2060 series will look at a couple of possible pathways for that 21-fold increase in nuclear power, incorporating a synergy of thermal reactors and Gen IV alternatives. I will also consider some further constraints on this roll-out, and the carbon mitigation implications of all this energy re-tooling.

Footnote: China has once again revised upwards its 2020 target for nuclear energy. It now stands at 112 GWe, up from the earlier target of 70 GWe (which itself was a positive revision of an earlier 40 GWe goal). This is relative to the 11 GWe of nuclear capacity operating today. China is most definitely moving quickly – as fast as they can possibly go — and I suspect they still haven’t shown their full hand. What their 2030 goal might now be is anyone’s guess (mine, for what it is worth, is ~500 GWe).


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