Japanese say no to nuclear power, yes to wind energy

Japan is much in the news this week after the Asian nation shut down the last of its 54 nuclear reactors for safety tests and maintenance following last year’s earthquake and tsunami which triggered a meltdown of the Fukushima reactor.

Wind power and other renewables are expected to help fill some of the gap caused by shutting down Japan’s nuclear industry, which had provided more than 30% of electricity for the world’s number three economy.

The shutdown has created a fierce debate in the nation, which has an estimated 127 million people, as many don’t want the nuclear reactors turned back on after the required tests. According to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), many Japanese are calling for the reactors to be replaced with renewable energy,

It is the first time in 42 years that a nuclear reactor has not been producing electricity in Japan. As a result of the shutdown, the nation will also be increasing its costly imports of oil and natural gas.

Associated Press reported that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has pledged to reduce Japan’s reliance on nuclear power over time.

The news agency also noted that Japan is debating renewable energy targets of between 25% to 35% of total power generation by 2030, looking to Germany which raised the proportion of renewables from 5% in 1990 to 20% by 2010.

In its Annual Market Update 2011, GWEC also noted there is now a struggle for the future of the Japanese electricity system.

The report said that while Japan’s wind power sector is maturing, the most serious problem in the nation is still the lack of an official long-term target for wind power development.

Japan had 2,501 MW of installed wind power by the end of last year, the report added.

GWEC Secretary General Steve Sawyer said the recently published feed-in tariffs for renewable energy sources, which will come into effect on 1 July, are another step on the long road towards transforming the Japanese electricity sector.

Japan’s new long-term post-Fukushima energy plan will not be released until summer. Meanwhile, the two Japanese Wind Energy Associations have called for at least 25 GW (equivalent to 5% of total electricity supply in Japan) of wind power development by 2030.

Wind turbines in Japan

1997: 18 MW
1998: 30 MW (+66.7 %)
1999: 68 MW (+126.7 %)
2000: 142 MW (+108.9 %)
2001: 275 MW (+93.7 %)
2002: 334 MW (+21.5 %)
2003: 506 MW (+51.5 %)
2004: 896 MW (+77.1 %)
2005: 1,040 MW (+16.1 %)
2006: 1,309 MW (+25.9 %)
2007: 1,528 MW (+16.8 %)
2008: 1,880 MW (+23.1 %)
2009: 2,056 MW (+9.4 %)
2010: 2,304 MW (+12.1 %)
2011: 2,501 MW (+8.6 %)

Chris Rose, http://blog.ewea.org/