The International Energy Agency predicts a new record level of nuclear generation in 2025

The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that global nuclear power production will grow at an average annual rate of nearly 3 per cent through 2026 and reach a new record high by 2025. More than half of the new reactors expected to come online during the forecast period are in China and India.

According to the IEA's Electricity 2024 report, which forecasts electricity demand, electricity supply and CO2 emissions to 2026, global electricity demand is expected to grow faster over the next three years as the transition to clean energy accelerates, with all of the additional demand projected to be met by low-emission electricity generating technologies.

While global electricity demand growth declined slightly to 2.2 per cent in 2023 due to falling electricity consumption in advanced economies, it is forecast to accelerate to an average of 3.4 per cent between 2024 and 2026. About 85% of the growth in global electricity demand through 2026 is expected to come from outside the advanced economies - primarily China, India and Southeast Asia.

However, record electricity generation from low-emission sources, including nuclear power, should reduce the role of fossil fuels in powering homes and businesses. Low-emission sources are expected to account for nearly half of global electricity production by 2026, up from 39% in 2023.

Global nuclear power generation is projected to reach a record high by 2025, surpassing the previous record set in 2021, driven by production growth in France, the restart of several plants in Japan and the start of commercial operation of new reactors in many markets, including China, India, South Korea and Europe. The IEA expects global nuclear generation to increase by almost 10 per cent in 2026 compared to 2023.

A further 29 GW of new nuclear capacity is expected to come online globally between 2024 and 2026. Asia remains the main driver of nuclear power growth, with the region's share of global nuclear generation expected to reach 30% in 2026.

According to the IEA, the growth in electricity generation from renewable sources and nuclear power "appears to be pushing the energy sector towards structural emission reductions". Over the next three years, low-emission electricity generation will grow twice as fast as the annual growth rate between 2018 and 2023. Global emissions from electricity generation are expected to fall by 2.4 per cent in 2024, with even smaller reductions in 2025 and 2026.

“The energy sector currently produces more CO2 emissions than any other sector of the global economy, so it is encouraging that the rapid growth of renewable energy and the steady development of nuclear power together have the potential to meet all of the growth in global electricity demand over the next three years," said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. "This is largely due to the tremendous momentum of renewables, led by increasingly low-cost solar power, and the important comeback of nuclear power, whose production will reach a historic high by 2025. While further progress is needed, and fast, these are very promising trends.”

In its updated Net Zero Roadmap, released last September, the IEA revised upwards the role of nuclear power. In the updated Net Zero Emissions (NZE) scenario, nuclear generation capacity would more than double to 916 GW in 2050.

At the COP28 climate change conference, which concluded in December 2023, more than 20 countries signed a joint declaration to triple nuclear power capacity by 2050. Globally, this would mean adding 740 GW of nuclear capacity to the current 370 GW.

According to the IEA, achieving this goal will require addressing the key challenge of reducing construction and financing risks in the nuclear sector. The report also notes that small modular reactor (SMR) technology is growing in popularity. While development and deployment of the technology "remains modest and not without challenges", R&D is beginning to gain momentum, the report said.