TCASE 3: Projecting energy demand through 2050

Univ. of Adelaide Prof. Barry Brook tackles the essential and tough challenge of projecting future energy demand. My very rough summary of Barry’s estimates is that, on average, we need to commission the equivalent of two AP1000 size nuclear reactor every three days through 2050. Since GDP is an exponential, and we are so far behind on initiating this scale of new construction, obviously the actual construction function is going to be exponential. Does anyone believe that this challenge can by achieved by continuing to build reactors on site? Factory mass production of standard units is the only answer, many of them small reactors.

Updated 13/10/2009, based on post comments. Bottom line: 2050 power demand will be ~10 TWe of electrical generating power — a 5-fold increase on today’s levels, requiring the construction of ~680 MWe per day from 2010 to 2050. Before we look in detail at the various low-carbon energy technologies that may provide the means to move […] [From TCASE 3: The energy demand equation to 2050]

There are a number of informed comments. E.g., this closing paragraph from John Newlands

…I question whether it is now even politically possible to do that since the required investment will take money away from retail consumption, the military and so on. The public mindset is not ready to be challenged with ideas like a quadrupling of the number of reactors. It seems both the economy and the climate will have to deteriorate a while longer.

See David Walters’ discussion of mass manufacturing small to very large LFTRs (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor). David contributed many useful comments – e.g., this one paragraph from his 12th October.

First, I doubt we’ll seen an additional “800GWs”. I’ve seen different numbers on this as well, because it assumes uninterrupted growth, which I doubt they will have, and growth in areas that demand increases in power. I know other consultants, albeit all Western, who have doubts as well. The common number I’ve seen is 1,000 GWs more by 2050.