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Japan eyes clean energy revolution after Fukushima

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By Hiroshi Hiyama

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© 2012 AFP

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“I want to use it as a trigger to fuel the use of renewable energy,” Industry Minister Yukio Edano said recently.

“It is clear that additional cost is necessary to promote greater use of renewable energy and to end our reliance on nuclear plants as soon as possible,” he added.

Don't stress. The whole world knows your heart is on nukes, not on renewables. It should have been somebody else to talk about promoting renewables, not Edano. it is an otherwise good message delivered by a wrong messenger , who is always in bed with teh nuclear village crooks!

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Making the energy companies ( buy green energy) at higher than average price, (is going to fail), that is the fuel they need to have a good argument that renewable energy cost too much!. Meanwhile the people most negatively effected by the nuclear disaster , get less and less mention in the news!

-11 ( +5 / -17 )

Japan gets less than two percent of its power from renewable sources, rising to about 10% including hydroelectric power, but still below other industrialised nations. As of 2010, Japan’s solar power output was about one-fifth that of Germany, while Tokyo was in 12th place globally in terms of wind-power generation.

Hydro-electric in this case includes pumped hydro, which has traditionally been associated with nuclear power since all other methods raise costs through the roof. Without pumped hydro, the actual number is closer to 5-7%. Of the remaining "renewable" energies, geothermal accounts for half, while solar and wind each are about 0.5%. This also puts things into perspective when you consider that even though nearly 20% of the electrical capacity in Germany is PV, only 2% of the total production (14.7TWh of 621TWh) is met through solar. The eight operational reactors in Germany currently provide about five times as much as the 76000 solar farms (covering about 1600 sq km, roughly the size of Okinawa island).

Critics of the scheme, which came into effect July 1, say it is too expensive, with most of the extra costs heaped on businesses and households.

“The 20-year guarantee seems a bit too sweet a deal”, said Yasuchika Hasegawa, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives.

Currently solar accounts for about 500 million kWh each year, so you can expect 21.5 billion yen increase in spending by households and small businesses for electricity. large companies tend to use higher voltage lines, which solar can't be used to supply (at least without a large efficiency loss), so the burden will be born by households and small businesses who buy by the kWh. Considering the current cost for production vs day rate, you can expect that peak energy from solar (not all companies will have the same level, so you will need to premultiply by the percentage used in your area) to be sold to customers at 60-80 yen/kWh rather than the normal 25-30 yen/hour. Peak rates could hit as high as 100 yen.

Even worse, this system is built to fail, since solar panels only last 15-20 years in the best conditions, usually 10 years or less if you include environmental conditions. Under this plan, not only will they get 30% tax reductions throughout the life of the plant, they will also get 30% more profit than they should from a markets perspective. Since the panels have to be replaced every 20 years at most, they will always have this excess fee. Since it's so profitable as-is, there is no incentive to actually innovate, and you will see companies setting up shop with old PVs just to steal money from people who will have no choice but to pay for the ridiculous fee.

-1 ( +8 / -8 )

Nuclear failed. Anything safer is better. And welcomed.

0 ( +7 / -8 )

How will there be a clean energy revolution when the current Prime Minister, and everyone who will be allowed to get in line for the Prime Minister's office, are all in the pocket of the nuclear industry?

@TheBigPicture: It hasn't failed as long as they can make money from it. Nothing else matters to them and to those they control.

0 ( +4 / -5 )

Yes! Of course, the pro-nuclear advocates are trying to obstruct this historic revolution, because renewables have become a threat to nuclear.

The CEO of Germany's RWE (the second largest energy producer in Germany) has said that renewables have become so cheap that "it's irresponsible to build more new nuclear plants in Europe":

Terium: The impact of current political decisions and market changes extends far beyond Germany. The large amounts of wind and solar energy that are being fed into the grid, together with the economic crisis, have led to a sharp decline in electricity prices.

SPIEGEL: But consumers in Germany now have to pay more for their electricity.

Terium: Yes, because government levies for new, renewable forms of energy, electricity grids and storage facilities drive up the price of electricity. The price we receive for generating power is currently so low that it's simply irresponsible to build an expensive nuclear power plant in Europe. The nuclear power chapter has come to an end for us.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/rwe-s-new-ceo-terium-to-halt-nuclear-power-and-invest-in-renewables-a-841260.html

-3 ( +4 / -9 )

zichiJul. 10, 2012 - 12:08PM JST

The charge levels for FIT's is too high at ¥42/kWh for solar, which will the power companies have to buy it but resell at half the price. A level of ¥15 to ¥25 per kWh would have been more realistic. The cost of the solar panels are way to high at an average price of about ¥1 million.

Yes, FIT is too high, and 15-25 yen/kWh though high, is acceptable since it compares well with pumped hydro from gas plants that is currently used. At the 15 yen end, it becomes a reasonable replacement for gas and oil. Not sure where your number of 1 million per panel is though, the numbers from the government state industry average prices in Japan are now around 450 yen/W installed, so about 70000 yen/m^2. I really don't trust those numbers due to a lack of inverter costs and feed in line upgrades, but even with that we are looking at 100k yen / m^2 (panels usually are 1m^2 - 2m^2).

There are 5.5 million vending machines which service many different items. The biggest use of power are the ones which cool drinks during hot weather. Coke and at least one Japan company, have come up with a new vending machines which cools drinks, using over night power, and then remain cold for about 16 hours without further use of power. They don't use much less power than the current ones, but they do shift the power use from daytime to over night.

While Coke has displayed the new machines, they have not released information on how much it costs vs the old ones, including reduction of capacity. If the machines hold only half the amount as before, they very well could end up costing more energy to refill than saved in electrical energy. And without a strong base load, these machines could very well start eating up the generation capacity used for pumped hydro, and then we end up with more or less the same condition as before. It is a good step in the right direction, but so far there's a lot of unanswered questions regarding how it will work.

Domestic water heating accounts for about 30% of all energy, gas and power. With the use of eco heat pump units that, according to the Federation of Power Companies, could be reduced to less than 10%.

I'm sure they said that but didn't mean it. The issue with heat pumps is two fold:

1) They draw electricity to move heat rather than produce it. You will end up straining the electrical supply more than simply gas boiling it. The federation likely stated this before 3/11.

2) Heat pumps have special requirements, mainly in source conditions. For one, they cannot be used effectively in apartment buildings unless there is a shared boiler (very rare). Second is that the ground conditions have to be just right. Hokkaido and mountainous areas in Japan tend to get very cold, enough so that the ground cools significantly during winter. Heat pumps tend to do very poorly, mainly because of an aversion (both tradition and install costs) to deep source pumps.

While deep source pumps are a good replacement for practically any option (water heating, space heating, cooling) in Japan, the regular type is pretty much limited to southern and coastal areas where even shallow sourcing is cost effective. Commercial buildings should use it though, no reason not to, and they can save tons of money over the 20-40 year lifetime of the building.

-3 ( +6 / -8 )

zichiJul. 10, 2012 - 12:08PM JST

Modern DATA centers are using massive amounts of power and need to be in expensive buildings with high levels of staff working them. AOL have made a new type of server, which is about the size of a large fridge and requires nothing more than an internet connection and a single domestic power point. They can be located anywhere, including hot countries, which has been a problem to date. They could be put in the middle of a rice field, not that I'm suggesting that, but they won't require the huge power, the data servers currently use. They require no additional cooling systems, or even lighting, since they don't even need to be manned. They would still need security but other wise can operate without staff. They could run off solar energy when it's available or Bloom Energy Servers.

While each micro-system won't use much energy (20kW from the size shown off by AOL), you will need many of them to reach the same network capacity. The thing AOL doesn't state though, is that the units must each be connected to their network (fiber costs money and energy), and to their massive data centers. In fact, most of the energy used in modern web servers has nothing to do with the processing power to serve the pages, rather with storing PB upon PB of data. Even assuming no redundancy and tape as primary storage you end up with very high electricity and heat numbers. Data center energy is a much larger issue than server efficiency, since many large scale server centers already work about as efficiently as a cellphone. Unfortunately, at the rate we consume information ("65000PB annually optimally compressed"), data centers aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

As for Bloom, apparently they already use 250% of the world output of one type of metal ore (most from stockpiles in Russia), so I doubt they will be able to help Japan anytime soon. Great machine, great idea to help with Japan's energy needs, but practically runs on unobtanium.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Come on, the FIT price is adjusted every month. If the price is too high then it will be readjusted accordingly. The price is high right now to promote more adoption.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Thomas AndersonJul. 10, 2012 - 01:40PM JST

Come on, the FIT price is adjusted every month. If the price is too high then it will be readjusted accordingly. The price is high right now to promote more adoption.

No, that is German FIT prices. Japanese prices aren't going anywhere, and will keep increasing costs artificially high by stagnating PV development and price reductions. Feed-in-tariffs should only be used when they follow ahead of the curve rather than lag behind it. Lower the FIT each year by 10% (starting from the average production cost of panels, where 1W installed produces 1kWh a year at 450 yen/W installed over 15 years, or 30 yen/kWh) to force the industry to evolve at at least that rate. Any less than 10% a year decrease will make people short term dependent on the panels for profit rather than for the intended purpose of peak power reduction.

FIT as it stands is profitable by itself, enough so that solar pays for itself in a quarter of the time. The point of FIT is so that the panels can pay themselves off over the LIFETIME of the panel, not for profit.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Sick of all the pro nuke proponents arguing that promoting green power is expensive. Sweeping aside all the BS, the fact remains nuclear power received trillions in government subsidies and taxpayer funds over the last few decades. It was promoted as safe and cheap. Fukushima changed that myth once and for all - nuclear is NOT safe and considering all the costs including the initial construction of the plants, decades of government tax breaks and subsidies ( using our tax money of course ), costs for future storage and disposal of the fuel rods, decomissioning of reactors, cleaning the Fukushima mess , compensation to victims etc etc...it is absolutely , definately NOT cheap! All the arguments to the contrary are coming from people / entities with vested financical interest in keeping the nuclear power generation going. End of story. Simple as that. Nuclear got our tax funds for decades. It failed us. Now green energy deserves to get the same preferential treatment nuclear benefited from for so long. GREEN IS SAFE, NUCLEAR IS NOT. Time for change is NOW.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

marcelito,

Hear, hear!

2 ( +5 / -3 )

This on NHK World today.

In the NHK poll, 40 percent of respondents supported cutting the rate of nuclear power to 15 percent by 2030 -- one of 3 targets recently proposed by the government.

Thirty-four percent supported the 2nd proposed target of reducing nuclear power to zero.

Twelve percent favored the 3rd option of capping the ratio at about 25 percent.

The government's latest decision to restart 2 reactors at the Ohi nuclear plant was viewed positively by 42 percent. Fifty-two percent were negative.

The people, the jellyfish,the Squids and Ponyo's mama have spoken.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

SquidBertJul. 10, 2012 - 04:16PM JST

This on NHK World today.

The people, the jellyfish,the Squids and Ponyo's mama have spoken.

This is not a poll, rather a questionnaire result. Free response "polls" are ruled by those with strong convictions in one way or another, and overwhelmingly biased towards elderly and housewives. Wait for an independent, proper poll. The article, http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/20120710_13.html , doesn't actually describe the number of people the survey was sent to, simply that they received 1000 responses. There is likely a very high self-selection bias, and when added to non-response, we simply cannot even begin to consider it.

While the number pushing zero is likely higher than the one pushing 25%, the fourth option of "I don't really care/ I don't know enough" is probably larger than all three given options combined. Most people simply have no idea about how energy is produced or how much 15 and 25% really are. If you were to tell them that 25% is larger than the entire world production of solar energy, I doubt anyone would believe it (even though it is actually much closer to just 8%).

2 ( +7 / -5 )

All I hear when basroil is speaking is:

-This is not an argument! -Yes it is! -No it's not!

1 ( +6 / -5 )

30% of all my electrical item's are off the grid, a very simple generator, that runs on water or zinc, true I can't run everything at once, but It takes care of my light's, rice cooker, and charger's for my I-pad, phone. I'm 100% against Nuclear power but in California, (land of the sun) I have watched renewable energies almost going backwards, because power companies don't like to buy green energy, especially for a higher price. I know it's (not) really more expensive than the "total cost of Nuclear energy" as we know power companies are good at corrupting the numbers, whitch give someone like Basroll, a platform from to speak from. I hope this plan works, but don't hold your breath. I only use one thing to help the electrical grid, just think if we used all green energy available to us!

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

basroil

No, that is German FIT prices. Japanese prices aren't going anywhere, and will keep increasing costs artificially high by stagnating PV development and price reductions.

No actually it says that FIT will be readjusted every year, not every month. Big deal. We can adjust the price every year.

http://www.enecho.meti.go.jp/saiene/kaitori/faq.html#4-3

Lower the FIT each year by 10% (starting from the average production cost of panels, where 1W installed produces 1kWh a year at 450 yen/W installed over 15 years, or 30 yen/kWh) to force the industry to evolve at at least that rate. Any less than 10% a year decrease will make people short term dependent on the panels for profit rather than for the intended purpose of peak power reduction.

That's most likely what they're doing.

-4 ( +4 / -7 )

Thomas AndersonJul. 10, 2012 - 06:40PM JST

No actually it says that FIT will be readjusted every year, not every month. Big deal. We can adjust the price every year.

http://www.enecho.meti.go.jp/saiene/kaitori/faq.html#4-3

Thanks for the link. Indeed it does state adjustments every year, as opposed to the media always just saying 20 years.

That's most likely what they're doing.

Not sure about what they are trying to do. They have something written, but it's in legal-speak stuff that doesn't make much sense to my limited Japanese. It can move, but it seems to be related to costs for energy and base energy cost (coal, gas, etc) .

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Bureaucrats in the Ministry of Industry and nuclear regulation agency, as well as employees at Japan's major electric companies ought to be forced to wear rainbow-colored propeller caps at all times until Japan has replaced the lost nuclear energy with renewable energy sources.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The sock puppet voters are in strong force I see.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

zichiJul. 10, 2012 - 11:56PM JST

Sixty-one billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) were consumed in 2006, representing 1.5% of national energy use.

Don't see how US figures relate to Japan, but even if it was true, those data centers+servers represent far more in GDP growth than the power they take up. Google, Microsoft, and Amazon alone represented 155 billion of the $15 trillion GDP. Add Oracle and Cisco to the list and you have 236 billion, which is 1.56% of GDP. And that's before the value added by the internet in terms of non-internet companies, small shops, etc. Even if centers take up a lot of the Japanese electrical use, they put far more into the economy watt for watt than anyone else (except maybe the power companies).

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Aneutronic nuclear fusion is our best hope for clean, safe, and dense source of energy. Studies and research are ever more advanced regarding this area. Soon aneutronic fusion will become the main energy source to power the world. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ro5-QYqqxzM

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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