Fusion Industry Outlook & Trends for 2024

Fusion Industry Outlook & Trends for 2024

Feb 14, 2024

In our first member Q&A session of 2024 on the 7th February, we discussed the outlook for the fusion industry in 2024 and key trends. Our expert was Andrew Holland, the CEO of the Fusion Industry Association (FIA).

Andrew spoke about fusion activity in different parts of the world, funding, the fusion business model and the role of the FIA in promoting and advocating for fusion.

Here are three key insights from the event.

1. Activity is ramping up internationally but the fusion industry is currently dominated by the USA

Andrew gave an update on US, UK, EU, Japan and China where there is now significant activity on fusion energy.

Countries are realising that they don’t want to miss out or get left behind. Andrew highlighted a comment by Japanese Minister of State for Science and Technology, Sanae Takaichi, who said “We are no longer in the era of cooperation but the euro of competition.”

There are twelve countries that have at least one fusion company, and the supply chain and workforce for fusion are increasingly global. Yet, currently the US dominates the fusion market. There are forty-three private fusion companies across the world, with twenty-five of these companies in the US alone.

About 80% of the fusion investment globally is into US private fusion companies.
Andrew said: “the fusion market has not yet determined what the approach for fusion will be.” There are numerous different scientific approaches to generating fusion power and many possible pathways to commercialisation. The market has not yet converged to one or a few fusion approaches, so support of the industry in general is needed for growth and collaboration.

Fusion has a long history of global collaboration, especially scientific cooperation, and that continues today through projects like ITER.

On the international front, “it’s important to note that things are changing really fast,” said Andrew.

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2. The EU market for fusion is one to watch

Andrew notes that previously, the EU market for fusion was primarily geared towards scientific support for fusion through ITER, Fusion for Energy and EUROFusion, but there is an increasing number of private fusion companies emerging in the EU market (6 currently).

To respond to the growing EU fusion market the FIA has just hired a new EU Director in Brussels [Cyrille Mai Thanh of Dentons Global Advisors] to lead their work on fusion in the European Union. Andrew says, “we see a lot of movement and development there.”

Germany and France have signalled that they support the growth of fusion and it is expected that later in 2024 they will announce support packages for their national fusion industries.

Andrew said of the FIA work: "People don't know about fusion. And if they do know about fusion, they know that it's coming on the ITER pathway. Of course, ITER is really important, but also really over budget and really behind schedule…. So, we're clear that that FIA members and private fusion are not threatening ITER but, at the same time, we think it's important that there are resources devoted to this potential sort of leapfrog pathway where, you know, ITER continues to grow and be built, but you take a higher-risk, sooner-return approach as well.”

Also, in June 2024 there will be a European Parliamentary election, which will mean a new Directorate-General for Energy and for the Environment, both of which cover support for fusion energy.

3. There are 2 major challenges common for all fusion companies

The two major challenges common to all fusion companies are:

  • Generating enough fusion power
  • Securing funding

Fusion breakeven has been achieved (and repeated since) at the National Ignition Facility (NIF). However, sustained net energy remains a major challenge. We are getting closer, but scaled-up, commercial technology is still some years away—although Andrew noted that Helion Energy in the US are aiming to turn their next machine on in the middle of 2024 and have accelerated plans to generate fusion energy.

Investment into fusion last year was still flowing despite the difficult financial climate, but the FIA’s annual report The Global Fusion Industry in 2023 noted that the median capital raised was only $9 million. This is not sufficient for the commercial demonstration of fusion and the construction of prototype plants.

And finally…

Andrew ended his expert insight into the fusion market in 2024: “The world needs fusion. There is a growing understanding among investors, among companies, among campaigners and NGOs that we need a new source of zero carbon firm energy. And we need it as soon as possible. This marketplace for fusion could be very significant.”

A full pdf summary of insights, plus the Q&A event replay, is available to members of Fusion Energy Insights. Join us for full access to all the insights and to stay one step ahead.

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