The nuclear crisis at Fukushima left Japan between an irradiated rock and a hard, dirty place. Since that lazy adaption of the age-old metaphor makes next to no sense, I’ll explain: After the meltdown at Fukushima to the brink, Japan took to the streets demanding an end to nuclear power. The government took heed, and shut down almost all of the nation’s nuke plants.
Trouble is, those nuke plants power a hell of a lot of Japan. And keeping them offline meant turning to an ugly alternative—hauling in coal, and firing up those nasty, CO2-spewing power plants. That’s according to conventional wisdom of course, which tends to paint such scenarios in dramatic, damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t binaries. In reality, Japan had a third option, which it’s thankfully embracing—it’s going apeshit on renewable energy.
After promising to shutter its nuclear plants by 2030, Reuters reports that Japan is bankrolling 33,000 non-nuclear clean energy projects by offering up a major new subsidy. It will be enough to add thousands of megawatts of power capacity to the energy-starved nation and spur serious growth in the sector.
The projects include:
- 243 megawatts of solar power from 81 different projects
- 300 MW from new Toshiba offshore wind farms
- 250 MW from two offshore wind farm to be installed north of Tokyo
- 122 MW from a spate of onshore wind projects, and
- 202 MW from rooftop solar that’s already been installed by homeowners across the country.
Clearly, this is just a start. Japan has 282 Gigawatts of total installed capacity of that’s from conventional thermal power (nat gas, coal); 27% is from nuclear plants. Fukushima knocked out 40 GW or so. Intensive energy efficiency measures have helped lower demand, but all the projects described above will only bring a couple GWs back. And yet.
This renewable-friendly policy has just been deployed; expect more renewable projects to roll out at a comparable clip from here on out. And remember—nations can indeed power their economies almost entirely with non-nuclear renewable energy. It’s mostly a matter of will—and Japan’s renewable binge bodes well for its energy future.