By: Paul Gipe - April 18, 2011
California, USA -- If Japan adopted an aggressive renewable energy policy like that of Germany, it could, within ten years, generate more than four times the electricity lost at the Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant, cutting the country's reliance on nuclear power by one-half or more.
As Japan expands the evacuation zone around the damaged Fukushima 1 nuclear plant from 20 km to 30 km and Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) skirts the edge of bankruptcy, the country confronts a stark choice: undertake a massive construction program to replace the nuclear reactors with more of the same, or, instead, follow a new, less risky, and potentially more strategic path toward rapid renewable energy development. The stakes are high and the fight is already intense as Japanese elites debate the future of their electricity system, and literally, the future of their country.
However, it is clear now that if Japan were to follow the path blazed by Germany, it could more than replace the electricity generation lost by the damaged plants at Fukushima in less time than it would take to build new reactors.
Germany alone added as much new renewable generation in less than five years as Japan lost at Fukushima. Wind energy alone generates more electricity in Germany than the doomed Japanese reactors once did.
If Japan were to develop renewable energy at the same pace as Germany has over the past decade, it could add 120 TWh per year of new renewable generation. It could add significantly more, if it kept up with Germany's blistering pace of solar energy development over the past five years.
Using a system of Advanced Renewable Tariffs, the modern version of feed-in tariffs, Germany added 80 TWh of new generation from wind, solar, and biomass between 2000 and 2010.
The six damaged reactors at Fukushima 1 generated about 30 TWh in 2010, and Japan's fleet of aging nuclear reactors generate a total of about 260 TWh per year.