Germany, Japan, charting Non-Nuclear, Low Carbon, Renewable Futures.
May 12, 2011
With yesterday’s announcement by Japan that 14 new nuclear power plants have been shelved in favor of greater emphasis on renewable energy and efficiency, two of the world’s top economies have now explicitly declared themselves as front runners for leadership in the multi-trillion dollar race to become sustainably-powered societies.
Germany’s Angela Merkel made an announcement last month that Germany would “..exit from nuclear power generation as soon as possible and make the transition to renewable energy sources..”
Germany is already among the world leaders in deployment of renewable technologies, with widely copied Feed in Tariff policies that have made the the northern European country an unlikely leader in solar energy, and in some parts of the country, so much wind power is being produced that consumers are being “paid to keep the lights on.”
That temporary bonanza is an artifact of power production outstripping transmission grid buildout, but is illustrative of what happens when well-targetted governmental policies are put in place to encourage new technology.
Mr. Kan’s announcement came as Japan allowed residents of evacuated areas around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to briefly revisit their homes for the first time since the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March caused the nuclear accident at the plant.
Tuesday’s decision will mean the abandonment of a plan that the Kan government released last year to build 14 nuclear reactors by 2030 and increase the share of nuclear power in Japan’s electricity supply to 50 percent. Japan currently has 54 reactors that before the earthquake produced 30 percent of its electricity.
One school of thought tells us that modern industrial economies cannot be powered by decentralized renewable energy, even though a number of credible scenarios exist for doing exactly that.
In a 2009 Scientific American feature, engineers Mark Jacobsen of Stanford, and Mark A. Delucchi of UC Davis laid out a plan to power the world sustainably by the year 2030.
The viability of nuclear power in the United States has for several decades, been a fiction, perpetuated by fans of centralized energy, unable to let go of the past. With gigantic loan guarantees available from the Feds, the industry’s touted “renaissance” has been sluggish at best, and unlikely to produce more than a tiny slice the new century’s power needs, with renewables set to eclipse nuclear contributions soon.