Renewables Update

German households have made Japan into an energy resource rich country! in Japanese

18 December 2014 Tomas Kåberger, Chair of Executive Board, Japan Renewable Energy Foundation

It is often repeated, and believed to be true, that Japan is a resource poor country. During the last hundred years the world has utilized coal, oil, uranium and gas for the energy as they have been the lowest cost sources available. Japan has held no significant resources of any of these non-renewable sources of energy. Instead Japan has been totally dependent on importing fuels to generate electricity, drive vehicles and heat houses.

However, during the last ten years a dramatic industrial shift has taken place. Driven by industrial policies in a few countries the technologies to harness renewable sources of energy, especially wind and solar, have become cheaper and are now competitive.

The most ambitious country has been Germany. The parliament decided that generous feed-in tariffs should be paid for electricity from solar and wind power plants. The electricity grid was separated from the old power production companies, and any producer guaranteed the right to deliver renewable electricity to the market.

There were more investments than predicted. Investors were mainly households, farmers and small enterprises, not power companies. All households has to pay the costs of the feed-in tariffs, while many of them also benefit from the income from solar PV on their roofs, or from local wind power plants built by co-operatives or small companies formed by local people.

Most important is that the German efforts have led to global industrial success. Electricity can now be produced from solar and wind energy at low costs, competitive with any old kind of power plant.

Wonderful for consumers and terrible for owners of old and expensive nuclear och coal fired power plants.

And for Japan this is a fantastic improvement. Suddenly, the wind sweeping over the sea and over Japan's islands is a valuable energy resource, as is the solar radiation providing enormous power just at the periods when power consumption for air-conditioning is large. Together with biomass residues and waste generated within the country, geothermal energy and hydropower, we can now see Japan as a country rich in competitive energy resources.

After the industrial development paid for by German households Japan has become a resource rich country. The balance of trade can improve when Japan no longer has to spend money importing oil, coal, uranium and gas. Japan may be contributing less to global climate change by reducing greenhouse base emissions. Japans engineering industry can deploy its skills to build the power plants that sustainably for many decades will harness domestic renewable energy at low costs. After the global development of renewable energy technology, Japan has become a resource rich country with energy opportunities!