New tariff announced for renewable energy in Japan

» By | Published 21 Jun 2012

Japan, the world’s third largest economy, has firmly shifted its future energy profile towards renewable energy technologies with a decision Monday to implement a feed-in-tariff for wind power and other renewables.

Reuters reported that the new incentives for renewable energies could unleash billions of Euros in revenue from renewable generation and related equipement while helping the nation move away from its reliance on nuclear power following last year’s earthquake and tsunami which resulted in the Fukushima reactor disaster.

The news agency said the scheme, which goes into effect 1 July, requires Japanese utilities to buy electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal at pre-set premiums for up to 20 years.

“The push for renewables is aimed at cutting reliance on not only nuclear, but pricey oil and liquefied natural gas for energy needs,” Reuters said, adding the government support has spurred explosive growth in renewable energy in countries such as Germany, which has nearly tripled its output in less than a decade.

It also noted that the government estimates capacity from renewable energy would increase to 22,000 megawatts by the end of March 2013, up from 19,500 MW now.

Prior to the Fukushima disaster, about 60% of the nation’s energy portfolio was provided by fossil fuels while approximately 30% came from nuclear.

The Financial Times reported that considerable opposition to Japan’s dependence on nuclear power and the increasingly high costs of conventional fossil fuels are putting pressure on the government to spur investment in clean energy.

CCS risky and unsuccessful

In another energy- and environment-related development, a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published Monday concluded that large-scale carbon, capture and storage (CCS) “is a risky, and likely unsuccessful, strategy for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

The study in the Washington, D.C.-based PNAS noted “there is a high probability that earthquakes will be triggered by injection of large volumes of CO2 into the brittle rocks commonly found in continental interiors.”

The two authors, Mark D. Zoback and Steven M. Gorelick of Stanford University, said in the study abstract that large-scale CCS likely wouldn’t succeed “because even small- to moderate-sized earthquakes threaten the seal integrity of CO2 repositories.”

Their findings will no doubt be seen as a setback for those who are trumpeting CCS as a workable solution to mitigate climate change. A much better approach is for nations to put more emphasis, like Japan has just done, on providing incentives and binding legal agreements for wind power and other renewables capacity.