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An energy-hungry world

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Responding competitively to heightened demand for electricity, particularly in developing countries, while reducing the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions is one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century. Energy conservation and the development of CO2-free forms of energy—primarily renewable and nuclear—are part of the solution to this challenge.

Electricity consumption up 75% in less than 25 years

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global electricity consumption is expected to increase 75% between 2007 and 2030, with China and India leading the way. Developing countries will account for more than 80% of new demand, as electricity use grows with their level of development.

Worldwide electric power generation by source

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Source : IEA - WEO 2008

Energy challenges are particularly apparent in the electricity sector, with electricity consumption growing faster than primary energy use. Electricity production is highly dependent on fossil fuels and is the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Building a sustainable mix

In its WEO 2009 report published in November 2009, the IEA developed a scenario in which state energy policies would make it possible limit the long-term increase in global temperature to 2°C.

The primary source of emission reductions in this scenario is improvements in energy efficiency (industry, transport, shipping, electricity). Next comes a shift in the electricity mix toward less carbon-intensive sources of energy, which means developing renewable energy and nuclear power.

Reducing the carbon intensity of the electricity mix would account for 42% of emission reductions in this ideal scenario, much more than the transport and industry sectors. It is an indication of the critical importance of developing an electricity mix based largely on CO2-free energy sources like renewable energy and nuclear power.

Significant and necessary investment

The growth in electricity needs will require significant investment, estimated by the IEA at 13,600 billion dollars:

  • Half to replace the power plant and meet growing demand,
  • Half to extend the transmission and distribution grids.

In order to achieve climate change targets, the need for investment will be more important than ever. Renewable energy and nuclear power are more capital-intensive than fossil fuel technology.