Small and medium reactors are an interesting technology. At roughly 100 - 300 MW each, they are a very different sort of creature from the 1000 - 1400 MW units that are the standard for the commercial power industry today. Several companies are pursuing small modular reactors, that in fact are not so different in size from the reactors powering submarines and some nuclear powered ice-breakers.
That’s just one example of the exposure of the energy sector to climate impacts. Up to now, most of the focus for the discussion of the energy-climate nexus has been on the impact of fossil-fuel energy use on climate change, the need to mitigate it, and the shift to renewable energy sources. This week, two World Bank colleagues of mine have just launched a new study that looks at the issue from the opposite side of the equation: climate impact on energy systems.
The COP 16 meeting in Cancun last year, while in many ways an important step forward, particularly on the role of energy efficiency, did not result in decisions on the global accord, and much remains to be done. One remedy for this situation may be to achieve local successes that demonstrate how climate protection and clean and efficient uses of energy can directly benefit the poor.
The fact that the COP will take place in Africa, which has the highest unmet need -- and demand for reliable and affordable energy access – brings to a head the need to find new tools and paths that can meet both goals. As the plans for the Durban Conference evolve, there must be a premium on action that implements this strategy.
The access gap is complicated by another problem: more than three-quarters of India’s electricity is produced by burning coal and natural gas. With India’s rapidly-growing population— currently 1.1 billion—along with its strong economic growth in recent years, its carbon emissions were more than 1.6 billion tons in 2007, among the world’s highest.
This is unsustainable, not only from a climate change standpoint, but also because India’s coal reserves are projected to run out in four decades. India already imports about 10 percent of its coal for electricity generation, and this is expected to reach 16 percent this year.