A nuclear power plant photographed in Germany, on August 4, 2022. Discussions about the role of nuclear energy in Europe’s largest economy have come to the fore after the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.
Lennart Preiss | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Nuclear has a role to play in the coming years, but it should not be seen as a “transformational” technology, according to Goldman Sachs.
Michele Della Vigna’s comments come after a recent report from Goldman Sachs Research examined whether Europe could bolster its energy independence following the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine, without compromising climate change goals.
Among other things, the report said that by 2050, €10 trillion (about $10.23 trillion) in investment would be needed for what it called “Europe’s energy transformation”. This would be offset by a EUR 10 trillion cut in net energy imports.
The report said natural gas – a fossil fuel – would remain “key” when it comes to Europe’s energy supply for the next two decades.
“Nuclear isn’t in the headlines of our report because we don’t think it’s one of the transformational technologies for the future,” Goldman’s Della Vigna told TUSEN’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Thursday.
“We think wind, solar energy [and] hydrogen, but not nuclear,” added Della Vigna, the leader of the bank’s commodity equity business unit for the EMEA region.
“But at the same time, we assume that nuclear will maintain its long-term market share in the energy mix in Europe,” he said.
This would mean “less retirement and some new builds,” including modular reactors.
“So we believe that investment in nuclear should continue, but it is not one of the transformational technologies we envision for the future.”
The role of nuclear
According to the International Energy Agency, nuclear energy is responsible for about 10% of global electricity production. In advanced economies, the IEA says it accounts for nearly 20% of the generation.
The Paris-based organization notes that nuclear energy has high upfront costs and long lead times, saying it “is struggling in some jurisdictions to compete with more economical and faster-to-install alternatives, such as natural gas or modern renewables.”
The development of “next generation installations” such as modular installations could help restore this balance, it adds.
In addition, the IEA describes nuclear power plants as “helping to provide electricity security by keeping power grids stable and complementing decarbonisation strategies, as they can to some extent adjust their output to shifts in demand and supply.”
The need for this will only increase as more renewable resources like wind and solar — which are intermittent — come online in the coming years, it says.
— Silvia Amaro of TUSEN contributed to this report.