Renewables are hot; nuclear is not

Renewables are the hot ticket for future electricity production. Nuclear is not. These are lessons the Saskatchewan government needs to pay attention to. But based on its continued support for the nuclear power industry, it appears the Saskatchewan Party is not listening.

Once the rising star of global electricity generation, nuclear power is stagnant. Coal is still king, providing about 40% of the world's electricity. In the late 1990s, natural gas surpassed hydroelectric (3rd place) and nuclear (4th place) to claim second spot. Oil has been a declining source of electrical generation since the late 1970s, and now makes up less than 5% of the global electricity supply. Renewables (which include geothermal, solar, tides, wind, biomass, and biofuels) are on the rise. Since 1995, the contribution of renewables towards global electricity production has increased by 155%, more than any other source.

Total worldwide production of nuclear power rose rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, began to level off in the 1980s, and has been approximately constant since the 1990s. Peak global nuclear power production reached 2.8 trillion kWh in 2006, and has since declined by 3.6% to 2.7 trillion kWh in 2009. How did global production of electricity from renewables fare over this time frame? An increase of 52% from 0.40 to 0.61 trillion kWh. As a share of global electricity production, nuclear reached its peak in 1996 at 17.7% and has since declined to 13.4%. At current trends, electricity production from renewables may surpass nuclear power by 2020.

We see a similar story here in Canada. Nuclear power production peaked in 1994 at 108 billion kWh, declining to 72 billion kWh by 1998 and currently sitting at about 90 billion kWh. In other words, electrical generation from nuclear power in Canada has not increased since the early 1990s, whereas electricity production from renewables has increased by 125% in absolute terms and 112% in relative terms (contribution towards total electricity production) since 1995 – both increases larger than any other sources over this time frame.

Global cumulative installed capacity of geothermal power has increased steadily over the past several decades, while that of solar and wind has increased exponentially.

Worldwide consumption of nuclear power has not increased since the late 1990s, peaked in 2006 and has since declined. Consumption of energy from wind, geothermal, solar, biomass, and waste has increased exponentially since the mid-1990s. If current trends continue, energy consumption from renewables may surpass nuclear power by the early 2020s.

The economic and environmental risks from nuclear power are high, and global energy markets reflect these facts. The real growth potential in Canadian and global electricity markets resides in renewables. With its abundant wind and biomass resources, Saskatchewan can play a leading role in the transition to a sustainable energy system. The Green Party of Saskatchewan is committed to the development of Saskatchewan's renewable energy sector, and our party's platform is consistent with national and worldwide energy trends. It is time to move away from nuclear power in the 21st century.

Author:  Sierra Rayne & Kaya Forest


The World Bank
BP Statistical Review
GPS | PO Box 26001, Regina, SK  S4R 8R7 | 352-0219 |