The Weekend Wonk: Amory Lovins on Japan’s Renewable Transition

August 17, 2013

While googling Amory Lovins response to misinformation about Germany, came upon this re his study of Japanese renewables. Have only watched the first 15 minutes so far, but looks worthwhile. Japan appears to be the next Germany.  As two of the world’s most highly competitive manufacturing economies slip into renewable overdrive, it gets harder and harder for science haters to demonize renewables.

Renewable Energy World:

What’s the hottest solar end-market region on the planet? Japan is making a strong case for top billing in 2013, according to recent analysis.

Not content with being the second-hottest solar market this year, Japan appears poised to actually take the top spot after a spectacular first quarter, according to new calculations from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. BNEF’s new calculations for solar installations, which now take into account a surge in first-quarter installations in Japan, span a big range: 6.9-9.4 GW, raising the low end of BNEF’s previous estimate of 6.1 GW. That likely will nudge Japan ahead of China, and well ahead of other top regions including the U.S., Germany, and Italy (the latter two falling off precipitously this year).

Japan was already poised for partial top billing in 2013, after IHS analysts (née IMS Research) suggested that even if installations don’t catch up to China as measured in gigawatts, it’ll likely be tops in terms of revenue thanks to the comparably high prices for PV systems. IHS sees Japan’s share of global PV system revenue rising to 24 percent in 2013, compared with 14 percent in 2012 and 9 percent in 2011.

National Geographic

A new renewable energy incentive program has Japan on track to become the world’s leading market for solar energy, leaping past China and Germany, with Hokkaido at the forefront of the sun power rush. In a densely populated nation hungry for alternative energy, Hokkaido is an obvious choice to host projects, because of the availability of relatively large patches of inexpensive land. Unused industrial park areas, idle land inside a motor race circuit, a former horse ranch—all are being converted to solar farms. (See related, “Pictures: A New Hub for Solar Tech Blooms in Japan.”)

But there’s a problem with this boom in Japan’s north. Although one-quarter of the largest solar projects approved under Japan’s new renewables policy are located in Hokkaido, the island accounts for less than 3 percent of the nation’s electricity demand. Experts say Japan will need to act quickly to make sure the power generated in Hokkaido flows to where it is needed. And that means modernizing a grid that currently doesn’t have capacity for all the projects proposed, installing a giant battery—planned to be the world’s largest—to store power when the sun isn’t shining, and ensuring connections so power can flow across the island nation.  (See related, “In Japan, Solar Panels Aid in Tsunami Rebuilding.”)

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10 Responses to “The Weekend Wonk: Amory Lovins on Japan’s Renewable Transition”


  1. Reblogged this on islandforsalebyowner and commented:
    Cool, we must follow, everyone’s future depends on it.


  2. Wonderful. A community based view with respect and honor for the individual and all on the planet ending with a prayer. A vision of hope.

  3. Nick Carter Says:

    I’ve read that Lovin’s has been spending a lot of time in China too. On one hand, I’m thrilled to see all the work RMI is doing for Japan and China, but then on the other hand, I wonder if he’s sort of given up on the US for the time being. Let’s hope for a change in the political winds, and let’s get moving!

  4. Nick Carter Says:

    Hi, Andrew. Yep, that’s the third rail in this whole story. We may not have much choice in reducing our carbon footprint, King Hubbert may be driving that bus in the future. As Canadian economist Jeff Rubin is fond of saying, ” In a world of increasingly expensive oil, Al Gore and Archie Bunker will be sleeping together”.

    • andrewfez Says:

      Thanks Nick,

      Yeah, i think a lot of folks i talk to in the denial camp on the internet aren’t seeing the full picture: it ain’t just climate change, it’s climate change in the context of depleting resources, mixed in with what grown humans do to each other, when there ain’t enough bread and water to go around.

      A year or so ago, during some local drought conditions in TX, more water was promised to ‘this town’ or ‘that farmer’ than was available by measurement. They were writing water checks that they couldn’t cash. Doesn’t always make the nicest of neighbors.

      Also, I haven’t looked at the details, but I would image Lockeed-Martin’s stock has been pushed up pretty dramatically recently, partly secondary to more folks waking up to resource scarcity.

      See ya,

      Andrew Fez

  5. andrewfez Says:

    http://www.4-traders.com/AT-T-INC-14324/news/AT-T-Inc-AT-T-and-Environmental-Defense-Fund-Find-28-Billion-Gallons-in-Water-Saving-Potential-in-17203941/

    This feels like a Lovins project:

    ‘For its own operations, AT&T identified water savings opportunities of 14-40 percent per pilot facility and did so in a way that also made business sense. One cooling tower filtration system upgrade costs less than $100,000 to install but promises more than $60,000 in annual water and sewer savings-paying for itself in less than two years, and a minor $4,000 equipment upgrade to expand free air cooling promises nearly $40,000 in annual savings. These savings-deployed company-wide-add up. Through free air cooling and optimized cooling towers, AT&T aims to reduce its approximately 1 billion gallon annual cooling tower water use by 150 million gallons per year by 2015. Cooling tower water use accounts for approximately 30 percent of AT&T’s 3.3 billion gallons of annual water use.’


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