Renewables Update

Let’s Take the Path toward 100% Renewables
-The Surest Choice to Avoid the Climate Change Crisis- in Japanese

5 January 2016 Teruyuki Ohno, Executive Director, Japan Renewable Energy Foundation

The “Paris Agreement”-the new international framework to address climate change adopted at COP21 at the end of 2015-determined in the form of an international agreement that the world should enter into a “fossil fuel-free” era by the latter half of this century. We cannot continue burning fossil fuels that emit CO2, if we are to avoid the climate change crisis.

The “divestment” movement, the pulling out of investment in fossil fuels, has expanded globally since two to three years before COP21, and meanwhile, the voices calling for renewables to supply all our energy have become stronger. It may be safe to say that the “Paris Agreement” is an indication that these actions by environmental NGOs, advanced corporations, local governments and others have been internationally recognized, and have been determined as the direction the world should take.

Certainly, some argue that nuclear power can be used while phasing out fossil fuels and that CCS can be used to trap and bury emissions from thermal power plants underground. But these technologies have unsolved issues in terms of ensuring safety and securing sites for final disposal and storage. They cannot escape from the disadvantage of high costs either.

Contrastingly, renewable energy is a safe and secure resource, and the cost is getting increasingly cheaper. Details are not repeated here, as they are described in documents such as the “Renewable Energy, After All!” brochure prepared by the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation. But recently, and at last, the mass media in Japan has also started to report the fact that renewables are becoming cheaper than thermal power.

Of course, it is not yet possible to supply all the energy from renewables right away either in Japan or in many other countries in Asia and around the world. Countries must decide on a strategy for the transition process, to steadily and swiftly increase the share of renewables in their power supply, and to shift away from using fossil fuels for heat and as a fuel source.

Ensuring improvements in energy efficiency and reducing the amount of energy needed for consumption are also important on the path toward 100% renewables. Wasted energy is also neglected in Japan in some areas; for example, 10% of the energy consumed in the manufacturing sector is lost due to deterioration of insulation on boiler pipe systems in factories and other places caused by aging.

The introduction of carbon pricing, which sets a “carbon price” based on the amount of emissions, is also required to promote switching from CO2 intensive energy sources such as coal-fired power plants to renewable energy. The Polluter Pays Principle (PPP) should be applied to anthropogenic CO2 emissions that destruct the global environment.

Clarification of a transition strategy toward 100% renewables and setting a “carbon price” as one of the measures under this strategy will facilitate development of low-carbon and decarbonization technologies, and will enable new growth.

In Europe and North America, an increasing number of the leading corporations that have a big influence on society are switching all the electric power they use in their business activities to renewables, serving as a driving force toward 100% renewables for the nation and the region as a whole. These initiatives must also be expanded into Japan and Asia.

As the “Paris Agreement” finally came into existence at the end of 2015, we must ensure that the year 2016 will mark the solid beginning of the journey toward 100% renewables.