The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released this week makes for grim reading. The attitudes and behaviour of the humanity is going to have to change and quickly if we are to save ourselves and the planet from catastrophic climate change.
Hope remains, however. Take a look at out new briefing, Japan: clean energy growth offers choice and hope, for instance…
For the past six months, up to March 2014, Japan has met its energy needs without reliance on nuclear power, which until the Fukushima disaster was a significant provider of the country’s power needs. Energy savings and a rapid expansion of clean, renewable energy are the way of the future. Major corporations, municipalities and communities have begun to move in this direction, but the Abe administration risks squandering the opportunity and returning Japan to the Dark Ages of nuclear risk.
It’s an outlook that offers choice and hope not just to Japan but to all of us.
Japan’s fleet of nuclear reactors have been almost entirely out of action since the March 2011earthquake and tsunami that destroyed reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. During the last six months, Japan has seen neither blackouts not brownouts. Life continues as normal.
This has been achieved by energy efficiency and an increased use of natural gas along with some oil and coal.
Yes, Japan has suffered a rise in carbon dioxide emissions but this has been very small and surprising considering Japan is getting by without 54 nuclear reactors, the third largest fleet of reactors in the world.
In 2009 and 2010, the annual growth of Japan’s carbon dioxide emissions was 7 percent. Between 2010 and 2012, including time when the country’s nuclear reactors were offline, the growth was 8 percent. All rises in greenhouse gas emissions are bad but that’s an amazing achievement.
So why is Japan’s President Abe so adamant that he wants to restart Japan’s idle nuclear reactors? The people of Japan are already proving themselves the most talented society on Earth at energy efficiency. On top of that, the future of renewable energy in the country is bright and exciting.
As an aside, an analysis by Reuters finds that Mr Abe faces an uphill struggle getting many of Japan’s reactors back into operation. Of the 48 that could be restarted, only 14 are “likely” to do so. The rest face opposition from local residents and serious safety concerns.
Since July 2012, Japan has added total of 6,800 MW of new solar power to the national grid. Another 20,000MW is already approved and in the pipeline. To put that in perspective, in 2013, only 4,000 MW of new nuclear reactors was installed in the entire world.
So, the “nuclear will be an important base load” argument assumes: 1. Older plants can be run until they are 60 years without major problems and at a lower cost than other sources; 2. Within the next, say, 16 years, new storage facilities for spent fuel will be built somewhere; and 3. By 2040, a country with 16 percent less people than in 2010 and one-fifth the population over 75 will not use less energy than today.
Nuclear energy simply isn’t flexible enough to change with the times and President Abe, with his push to reopen reactors, risks being left behind with it. Since 2012, companies such as Softbank, Goldman Sachs Group, Equis Fund Group, Mitsui, Kyocera, Toshiba, Marubeni, and Suzuki Motor Corporation have all got into the renewable energy business. This is the “smart” money.
Not only that, the people of Japan are getting in on the renewables action as well. Since July 2012, 400,000 small-scale solar energy projects have been installed across Japan. It gives a view of how distributed power generation works and puts another nail in the coffin of baseload and nuclear power.
Energy efficiency, solar power, people power. The Japanese people’s response to the Fukushima disaster has been little short of heroic. They’re showing the world how a brighter future away from nuclear and fossil fuels is possible. Why won’t their Prime Minister listen to them?
Yes, climate change is scary but, as my colleague Kaisa says here, we can choose a better future.
(Image: Greenpeace activists display the message reading: “Climate SOS and Go Renewables” outside the Isogo coal power plant and the Minami-Yokohama gas power plant on 24 March 2014 near where the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were meeting. Highlighting the cause of climate change and the solution to the unfolding crisis, Greenpeace urged for a rapid shift away from fossil fuels and an accelerated clean energy revolution. © Jeremie Souteyrat / Greenpeace)
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