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Nuclear power falls below 10%, overtaken by non-hydro renewables

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Nuclear power accounted for 9.8% of global electricity generation in 2017 (2,5031 / 25,5702 terawatt-hours). That's a big drop from nuclear's historic peak of 17.6% in 1996.3

Renewables accounted for 26.5% of global electricity generation in 2017.4 Thus renewables generated 2.7 times more electricity than nuclear power. Non-hydro renewables (10.1%) generated more electricity than nuclear (9.8%) for the first time in decades.

Global nuclear power capacity increased by 5.4% from Dec. 2007 to Dec. 2017 (from 372 GW to 392 GW) if including idled reactors (mostly in Japan).5 However, including those reactors in the count of 'operable' or 'operational' reactors is, as former World Nuclear Association executive Steve Kidd states, "misleading" and "clearly ridiculous".6 If idled reactors are excluded, nuclear capacity as of Dec. 2017 was 353 GW7 and fell by 5.1% from 2007 to 2017.

Whether or not idled reactors are included in the count, nuclear capacity changed little from 2007 to 2017 (up or down by about 5%). Compare that to renewables: global renewable power capacity more than doubled in the decade 2007-2017, and the capacity of non-hydro renewables increased more than six-fold.4

Bloomberg NEF New Energy Outlook 2018

Bloomberg NEF has published the 2018 edition of its annual New Energy Outlook.8 The report focuses on electricity generation worldwide. Its long-term projections assume that existing energy policy settings around the world remain in place until their scheduled expiry, and that there are no additional government measures. The 150-page report draws on detailed research by a team of more than 65 analysts around the world, including modeling of power systems country-by-country, and of the evolving cost dynamics of different technologies.

Wind and solar are set to expand to almost 50% of worldwide electricity generation by 2050 on the back of cost reductions and the advent of cheaper batteries that will enable electricity to be stored and discharged to meet shifts in demand and supply. The report predicts a 17-fold increase in solar PV capacity worldwide, and a six-fold increase in wind power capacity, by 2050.

The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) from new solar PV plants is forecast to fall a further 71% by 2050, while that for onshore wind drops by a further 58%. These two technologies have already seen LCOE reductions of 77% and 41% respectively between 2009 and 2018. Solar PV and wind are already cheaper than building new large-scale coal and gas plants.

Batteries are also dropping dramatically in cost. Bloomberg NEF predicts that lithium-ion battery prices, already down by nearly 80% per megawatt-hour since 2010, will continue to tumble as electric vehicle manufacturing builds up through the 2020s.

Seb Henbest, lead author of the New Energy Outlook report, said: "The arrival of cheap battery storage will mean that it becomes increasingly possible to finesse the delivery of electricity from wind and solar, so that these technologies can help meet demand even when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining. The result will be renewables eating up more and more of the existing market for coal, gas and nuclear."

Coal shrinks to just 11% of global electricity generation by 2050, from 38% currently. Elena Giannakopoulou, head of energy economics at Bloomberg NEF, said: "Coal emerges as the biggest loser in the long run. Beaten on cost by wind and PV for bulk electricity generation, and batteries and gas for flexibility, the future electricity system will reorganize around cheap renewables – coal gets squeezed out."

Gas consumption for power generation increases modestly out to 2050 despite growing capacity, as more and more gas-fired facilities are either dedicated peakers or run at lower capacity factors helping to balance variable renewables, rather than run flat-out around-the-clock. Gas-fired generation is seen rising 15% between 2017 and 2050, although its share of global electricity declines from 21% to 15%. 

Electric vehicles add around 3,461 TWh of new electricity demand globally by 2050, equal to 9% of total demand. Time-of-use tariffs and dynamic charging further support renewables integration: they allow vehicle owners to choose to charge during high-supply, low-cost periods, and so help to shift demand to periods when cheap renewables are running.

The New Energy Outlook report predicts US$11.5 trillion being invested globally in new power generation capacity between 2018 and 2050, with US$8.4 trillion (73%) of that going to wind and solar and a further US$1.5 trillion (13%) to other low-carbon technologies such as hydro and nuclear, with gas investments at US$1.3 trillion (11.3%) accounting for most of the remainder.


1. IAEA, 2018, 'Nuclear Power Reactors in the World',

2. IEA, March 2018, 'Global Energy & CO2 Status Report 2017',

3. Mycle Schneider, Antony Froggatt et al., 12 Sept 2017, World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2017,

4. REN21, June 2018, 'Renewables 2018 Global Status Report', p.40-41,


6. Steve Kidd, 13 Oct 2016, 'Nuclear power in the world – pessimism or optimism?',

7. Mycle Schneider / World Nuclear Industry Status Report, 9 Jan 2018, 'World Nuclear Industry Status as of 1 January 2018',

8. Bloomberg NEF, June 2018, 'New Energy Outlook 2018',