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Clean fuel to play increasing role in energy structure

By Zheng Xin | China Daily | Updated: 2020-07-09 10:16
The domestically-made third-generation nuclear reactor Hualong One is being tested at Fuqing nuclear power station in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian province, on Jan 8. [Photo/Xinhua]

Insiders believe China's nuclear sector development will continue its steady course and that clean fuel will play an increasingly significant role in the country's energy mix.

According to a recent report released by the Paris-based International Energy Agency, nuclear power output is expected to decrease 2.5 percent worldwide in 2020, while electricity demand will likely fall 5 percent overall, and up to 10 percent in some areas.

The IEA called for efforts to support a broad range of clean energy technologies in an energy-focused COVID-19 economic recovery plan, with measures including investing in existing nuclear power plants, new nuclear facilities and supporting innovation in small modular reactors.

Together with demand for oil, natural gas and coal, global energy demand will fall 6 percent in 2020 compared with 2019 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, and investment in the energy sector in 2020 will experience its largest decline on record with a reduction of 20 percent-or almost $400 billion-in capital spending compared with 2019, the IEA said.

Support for innovation and new technologies is unlikely to create a large increase in jobs or economic activity in the short-term, but could lead to the development of new sustainable industries over the long term, including hydrogen, batteries, carbon capture, utilization and storage and small modular nuclear reactors, it said.

In China, however, insiders believe nuclear energy will enjoy significant advantages in the country's energy mix, and the government's focus on delivering clean energy in the future should also accelerate the deployment of new nuclear facilities.

Joseph Jacobelli, an independent energy analyst and executive vice-president for Asia business at Cenfura Ltd, a global renewable energy company, believes the decreased investment will not affect the nuclear sector's development as the world shifts toward a cleaner and sustainable energy transition.

"Given the huge amount of nuclear generation capacity the country is building and that this is a multi-decade process, the current decreased investment in the sector will not have a significant impact," he said.

Also, considering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Jacobelli said the contagion may translate into extra construction time as distancing and other measures are implemented.

Power generated by nuclear plants in China over the past 10 years played a significant role in the country's energy supply and carbon emissions reduction, said Wang Yiren, chief expert of the 2020 blue book of the China Nuclear Energy Association.

"As China is expected to have 51 nuclear facilities in operation by the end of 2020 with total installed capacity exceeding 52 gigawatts, nuclear energy is expected to play a bigger role than ever in the country's energy mix," Wang said.

The IEA report said extending operations of existing nuclear plants will support thousands of jobs and avoid more emissions per gigawatt than other low-carbon options.

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