Just as the choice between being lonely and dragging his friends back to the island was a false one, so is the choice between phasing out nuclear power and addressing climate change. The fact is we can do both. Over the weekend, I contacted several renewable energy experts who explained how Japan could fully make up for its nuclear phase-out by committing to energy efficiency and adopting a 100 percent renewable electricity target.
Japan's decision is a revolutionary step, reflecting a complete change in mentality which will have knock-on effects for the renewable industry elsewhere. For example, with government support an 11-company consortium has been developing floating offshore wind technologies. This will open up opportunities not only for Japan, but for other countries including China and India.
Energy efficiency and rapid deployment of renewable technology can provide all the power Japan needs. Clearly the announcement will be a boon for the renewable energy industry. See for example the announcement of Masayoshi Son, Softbank chief executive and founder of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation, to build a 1 GW wind farm on Hokkaido.According to Antony Froggatt, Independent Energy Consultant and Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House in London:
It's worth noting the role of energy saving and energy efficiency. In 2011, despite halving the output of nuclear and replacing it with coal, oil and gas Japan's total energy sector emissions were only 0.2 percent higher than in 2010. While emissions are likely to rise on the short term, this will stimulate rapid structural, investment and policy changes that will lead to rapid reductions on the mid-term. Given Japan has failed to drive down its CO2 emission reductions over the last decade, a significant reform of the energy sector was already overdue.
They're in the process of trying to shift the entire electricity sector. Solar is going through the roof. Wind is going a little slower, but headed in a very positive direction. It doesn't look like they plan any major expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, but have simply expanded the capacity factor of existing power plants where necessary -- i.e. operating existing plants for more hours.