Japan Shuts Down Last Nuclear Reactor, Ups Renewables
On Saturday, Japan will shut down the last of its 50 usable nuclear reactors, completely eliminating a power source that once supplied a third of the country's electricity. At a time when temperatures can reach as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit, the pressure to economize and spur a green energy revolution is high.
Since the nuclear power plant meltdown in Fukushima last March, authorities have tightened safety standards and refrained from restarting reactors, mostly to conduct routine checks. To make up for the shortfall, utilities have ramped up oil and gas imports, which has also given the country its biggest annual trade deficit in history—costing over $100 million a day. But the Japanese realize that the economic and environmental costs of those resources are not sustainable, leading many decision makers to turn towards renewable energy options.
Looking to Germany, which raised renewable energy from 5 percent in 1990 to 20 percent by 2010, Japan is more than confident it can follow in the same footsteps. Of course, that transition won't happen overnight, so many believe the country will have no choice but to restart some of its nuclear reactors soon despite public fears and opposition.
Oil, coal and gas now account for 90 percent of energy generation in Japan, while hydropower accounts for about 8 percent and other renewables make up the remainder. Shutting down all of its plants increases oil demand by up to 4.5 million barrels a day at a price of roughly $100 million.
Renewable energy companies will be rushing to enter the market as those costs impact Japan. “Feed-in” tariffs, guaranteeing renewable energy producers a fixed price for their power, could boost renewable energy generation by 200 times over the next three years, according to Hiroshi Hamasaki, an energy expert at Fujitsu Research Institute.
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To help, the government has eased land restriction and regulations on renewable energy projects throughout the country. Last week, feed-in tariffs were approved, which should also spur investment in the sector. For the first time, renewable energy has more power than nuclear.
"Before, many companies were reluctant to move toward renewable energy because they were afraid of displeasing the utilities, but that has changed," Koichi Kitazawa, head of an independent commission investigating the Fukushima crisis and former president of the Science and Technology Agency, told the Huffington Post.
As an island isolated from neighboring countries, a complete shift to renewable energy is a lot more difficult. Son has proposed an Asian “super grid” that would link the country to Asia, pulling in massive wind power from the Gobi desert. But that will take years to develop. Despite the approaching green energy revolution in Japan, real change isn't expected to happen right away. Renewable energy will still only make up a small percentage of electricity demand over the next few years. But the energy mix in Japan, nonetheless, is about to rapidly change.
UK must stop blundering into high carbon choices warns CCC
The UK Government must end a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices, according to the Climate Change Committee as it released 200 policy recommendations in a progress to Parliament update.
While the rigour of the Climate Change Act helped bring COP26 to the UK, it is not enough for Ministers to point to the Glasgow summit and hope that this will carry the day with the public, the Committee warns. Leadership is required, detail on the steps the UK will take in the coming years, clarity on tax changes and public spending commitments, as well as active engagement with people and businesses across the country.
"It it is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we have seen in the last 12 months. There are gaps and ambiguities. Climate resilience remains a second-order issue, if it is considered at all. We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices. Our Planning system and other fundamental structures have not been recast to meet our legal and international climate commitments," the update states. "Our message to Government is simple: act quickly – be bold and decisive."
The UK’s record to date is strong in parts, but it has fallen behind on adapting to the changing climate and not yet provided a coherent plan to reduce emissions in the critical decade ahead, according to the Committee.
- Statutory framework for climate The UK has a strong climate framework under the Climate Change Act (2008), with legally-binding emissions targets, a process to integrate climate risks into policy, and a central role for independent evidence-based advice and monitoring. This model has inspired similarclimate legislation across the world.
- Emissions targets The UK has adopted ambitious territorial emissions targets aligned to the Paris Agreement: the Sixth Carbon Budget requires an emissions reduction of 63% from 2019 to 2035, on the way to Net Zero by 2050. These are comprehensive targets covering all greenhouse gases and all sectors, including international aviation and shipping.
- Emissions reduction The UK has a leading record in reducing its own emissions: down by 40% from 1990 to 2019, the largest reduction in the G20, while growing the economy (GDP increased by 78% from 1990 to 2019). The rate of reductions since 2012 (of around 20 MtCO2e annually) is comparable to that needed in the future.
- Climate Risk and Adaptation The UK has undertaken three comprehensive assessments of the climate risks it faces, and the Government has published plans for adapting to those risks. There have been some actions in response, notably in tackling flooding and water scarcity, but overall progress in planning and delivering adaptation is not keeping up with increasing risk. The UK is less prepared for the changing climate now than it was when the previous risk assessment was published five years ago.
- Climate finance The UK has been a strong contributor to international climate finance, having recently doubled its commitment to £11.6 billion in aggregate over 2021/22 to 2025/26. This spend is split between support for cutting emissions and support for adaptation, which is important given significant underfunding of adaptation globally. However, recent cuts to the UK’s overseas aid are undermining these commitments.
In a separate comment, it said the Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies.
Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee said: “The UK is leading in diagnosis but lagging in policy and action. This cannot be put off further. We cannot deliver Net Zero without serious action on adaptation. We need action now, followed by a National Adaptation Programme that must be more ambitious; more comprehensive; and better focussed on implementation than its predecessors, to improve national resilience to climate change.”
Priority recommendations for 2021 include setting out capacity and usage requirements for Energy from Waste consistent with plans to improve recycling and waste prevention, and issue guidance to align local authority waste contracts and planning policy to these targets; develop (with DIT) the option of applying either border carbon tariffs or minimum standards to imports of selected embedded-emission-intense industrial and agricultural products and fuels; and implement a public engagement programme about national adaptation objectives, acceptable levels of risk, desired resilience standards, how to address inequalities, and responsibilities across society.
Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said the report is another reminder that if the UK is to meet its ambitious climate targets there is an urgent need to scale up bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
"As the world’s leading generator and supplier of sustainable bioenergy there is no better place to deliver BECCS at scale than at Drax in the UK. We are ready to invest in and deliver this world-leading green technology, which would support clean growth in the north of England, create tens of thousands of jobs and put the UK at the forefront of combatting climate change."
Drax Group is kickstarting the planning process to build a new underground pumped hydro storage power station – more than doubling the electricity generating capacity at its iconic Cruachan facility in Scotland. The 600MW power station will be located inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – and increase the site’s total capacity to 1.04GW (click here).
Lockdown measures led to a record decrease in UK emissions in 2020 of 13% from the previous year. The largest falls were in aviation (-60%), shipping (-24%) and surface transport (-18%). While some of this change could persist (e.g. business travellers accounted for 15-25% of UK air passengers before the pandemic), much is already rebounding with HGV and van travel back to pre-pandemic levels, while car use, which at one point was down by two-thirds, only 20% below pre-pandemic levels.