The world is battling a global energy crisis like never before.
Around the planet, fossil fuel prices have sky-rocketed, and with them so has the cost of electricity. The economic impact has been felt internationally with the crisis leading to the highest inflation rates in decades. At the same time, climate change is increasing in severity, with countries experiencing devastating wildfires and the warmest temperatures on record. Europe witnessed blistering heatwaves stretching from Greece to the UK and Sweden with temperatures surging above 40°C.
Energy security and climate change have become the most serious challenges of our time.
The solution has to be long-term, strategic choices that provide greater energy security and rapid decarbonization – to ensure the world doesn't face a crisis like this again.
Long-term energy security requires urgent investments that generate clean electricity in line with economic growth and urgent environmental needs. Many governments have recognized that nuclear energy can accelerate the drive to net-zero emissions and be the foundation of a more secure energy system. They are also quickly recognizing that long-term operation of nuclear reactors is the lowest cost form of additional low-carbon generation and helps reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
A lot of change in the right direction is happening across the world, with more investments in both nuclear and renewables. For example, the Chinese government has approved the construction of six nuclear reactors as part of a plan to reduce carbon emissions by more than doubling nuclear energy capacity this decade. Non-fossil fuels, including wind, solar, nuclear and hydropower, supplied 16.6% of China's total energy needs last year, up from 15.9% a year earlier.
In the US, the Senate recently passed USD 369 billion in climate and energy investments, aimed at cutting carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. Included in the legislation is a“zero-emission nuclear power production credit” that provides incentives for existing nuclear plants to continue generating zero-emission electricity until 2032, sending a clear signal that nuclear energy is essential to cutting carbon emissions and bolstering domestic energy production. In California, one of the most anti-nuclear states, the legislature recently adopted a decision to keep its last nuclear plant at Diablo Canyon open for at least five years with an overwhelming majority.
France is doubling down on nuclear energy, including next-generation designs, with plans to build 14 reactors by 2050, and the Dutch government is moving towards construction of two new plants in response to energy shortages. German policymakers are discussing the option of postponing their exit from nuclear energy to ensure security of supply, especially in the coming winter. And in the UK, the government recently gave the go-ahead for the new Sizewell C nuclear power plant on the Suffolk coast, which will generate about 7% of the UK's electricity needs and operate for 60 years.
Japan plans to bring nine nuclear reactors fully online this winter, while its 2030 emissions goal is based on restarting a total of 30 reactors. South Korea recently announced its ambition to boost nuclear generation by 30% over eight years. Countries including Turkey, Egypt and Bangladesh are in the process of building their first nuclear plants.
Globally, nuclear generation bounced back from the pandemic-related decline seen in 2020, increasing by 100 TWh to reach 2,653 TWh in 2021. Every additional megawatt-hour of nuclear generation helps in the fight against climate change and every reactor helps provide more secure and reliable emissions-free electricity.
In 2008, the UAE made a data-driven, smart decision to invest in nuclear, which is today sustainably powering the economy and significantly contributing to the country's Net Zero strategy. Whilst the world battles with energy supply issues, the UAE has remained ahead of the curve because of its long-term strategy and significant investment in nuclear energy and other clean sources. As such the UAE leadership has been able to guarantee clean electricity around the clock whilst reducing carbon emissions.
The UAE's Barakah Plant, the only multi-unit nuclear energy plant operating in the Arab world, has become a powerhouse for the nation's sustainable development. It has created thousands of high-value jobs and continues to stimulate the growth of local industries with contracts worth close to USD 6.7 billion awarded to local companies. Barakah provides significant environmental benefits for the nation today and for the next 60 years through rapid decarbonization of the energy sector – allowing local companies to demonstrate their“green” credentials and access $54 trillion in ESG funding through Abu Dhabi's Clean Energy Certification scheme.
Both Units 1 and 2 of the Barakah Plant are commercially operating. We have also just recently celebrated start-up of Unit 3 which will soon complete grid connection and begin commercially operating in the coming months. When it begins to operate at full power, Unit 3 will add a further 1,400 megawatts of zero-carbon emission electricity to the national grid. Unit 4 is also in the final stages of commissioning prior to construction completion. Once fully operational, the Plant will reduce the UAE's natural gas use, freeing up more than 400 billion cubic feet per year, worth almost $4 billion in today's prices. This directly supports the nation's ambitions to achieve gas self-sufficiency and a net gas exporter by 2030.
For the UAE, the Barakah project is just the beginning. Barakah is a catalyst for innovation through R&D as the focus now shifts towards to what can be achieved in the next decade across an array of advanced nuclear technologies and clean fuels, such as clean hydrogen, development of regional super grids, SMRs and applications of nuclear in wider sectors.
The UAE's example highlights the unique capabilities of nuclear energy in solving energy security and sustainability in parallel. With the world recognizing the benefits of having a mix of clean energy sources, we expect to see more investments in nuclear technology and renewables. By having long-term data-driven strategies, countries across the planet will be able to sustainably provide energy, cut down carbon emissions quickly and avoid energy and economic crises like the ones we are facing as a global community today.
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