Following the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Power plant in 2011, there has been a distinct shift in the culture surrounding energy production. Prior to the earthquake and ensuing failure of the plant’s cooling systems, Japan had been the world leader in terms of installed nuclear power capacity, and planned nuclear development. According to the World Nuclear Association, Japan generated 30% of its electricity before the disaster. The prospects moving forward are quite different, with the output of nuclear power expected to drop significantly in the next few years. This shift is primarily due to volatile public opinion in Japan surrounding the nuclear power industry.
The sudden lack of support for nuclear power has left Japanese lawmakers in a difficult position. They are now faced with the question of how to satisfy the existing energy demand while phasing out the use of nuclear reactors. Compounding the issue is Japan’s geographic constraints; the island nation’s traditional energy resources, such as coal and oil, are naturally limited.
To solve these pressing issues, Japanese lawmakers are making a significant move to solar power. While the new Japanese strategy is to develop a diverse portfolio of renewable power, the first step has come in the direction of solar power. On November 4, 2013, Japan opened the largest solar plant ever built in the country. Rated at 70 MW, the Kagoshima Nanatsujima plant will produce enough electricity to power over 22,000 homes. This development represents a new paradigm taking shape in the Japanese energy industry.
With the new solar installations, Japan has now become one of only 5 countries in the world to have over 10 GW of installed solar capacity. Incentives are now being offered to homes and business that install solar panels, further accelerating the move to a renewable energy society. Developing rooftop and commercial solar power will also allow Japan to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, which has been a major concern in the shift away from nuclear power. All in all Japan has positioned itself as one of the world leaders in clean energy, and specifically solar power. The trend is expected to continue, with reports that Japans solar capacity will double in the next 5 years.
The tragic event at Fukushima has changed many things in Japan, both socially and economically. Fortunately, Japan has found a solution to many of their most pressing issues, and have successfully begun to transition to a safe clean energy economy.
- 18 Nov, 2013
- Kit Man Chan
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