Renewables Update

Renewable energy - hope for Fukushima communities

7 March 2014 Stefan Gsänger, Secretary General, World Wind Energy Association

In spite of the beauty of its landscape and the gentleness of its citizens, the name of city and prefecture Fukushima has become synonymous with nuclear disaster. The way to change this into the opposite should be based on the wise decision taken by Fukushima prefecture to get all its energy from renewable sources – Fukushima could become world famous for its progress in renewable energy!

Wind, sun and other renewable energy sources can not only provide all energy in an environmental friendly way, but they have the potential of reviving the economy, in particular in the areas which were heavily devastated and even had to be evacuated.

Farmers can use their fields for wind turbines or solar panels, sometimes instead of crops, and hence create a new basis for economic activities and for income generation in the area. Such a new economy, based on renewables, can create hundreds and thousands of jobs – we can see this practically done in a similar way today in hundreds of municipalities in Denmark, Germany, and in more countries.

Local communities - hope for renewables

With the local communities becoming the driving forces in the revival of the devastated areas, such development can bring new prospects for many other regions as well. Decision-makers in government, industry and society in general can learn and benefit from such experience!

Still, the importance of communities as investors and as drivers of the renewable energy uptake is often underestimated. However, communities are not only crucial for social support – there is scientific evidence that local ownership goes hand in hand with high local acceptance.

Communities, especially those in industrialized countries, have also enough money to invest in power generation. Assuming such a role, communities can even ease the financial burden of public spending by raising the financial resources which are necessary for investment in public infrastructure such as electricity. As a consequence, the manufacturing industries would also benefit greatly from a stable and growing domestic market.

Wind power - the neglected energy source

Without doubt, wind power represents today the cheapest form of new investment in electricity generation. And, in addition, wind power plants can be installed very rapidly. China alone installed within the year 2013 16 Gigawatt of new wind turbines. Germany, more similar to Japan in terms of its social and economic structure, added 3 Gigawatt of wind, more than the current total Japanese wind capacity, within only one year, and generates today around 10 % of its electricity from wind power. Denmark produces already one third of its electricity from wind turbines! And in Denmark as well as in Germany, communities have been the mainstream type of investors who made this change possible. Instead of spending money for imported energy resources, the money stays with the local communities and creates jobs and income.

Japan’s industrial and scientific strength, together with the support from its local communities, are excellent conditions for a similar development and for a wind power boom in the country. An alliance between the wind power industry proponents, between its internationally leading academia and the community investors could be a great step in order to make Japan a global wind power champion!