As Japanese anti-nuclear activists celebrate the closing of the country’s final nuclear reactor, making Japan temporarily nuclear free, a power revolution of another sort is set to begin in the Land of the Rising Sun.
While debate rages over whether or not the country should remain permanently nuclear free, rumblings from the country’s once-mighty Ministry of Trade have hinted at the emergence of a renewable-led energy sector. Your correspondent’s memory seems to recall that it was this ministry (also known as METI) which was in the driving seat of planning the great Japanese industrial and export-led economic post-war “miracle,” culminating in the booming success of the 1990s.
While the Japanese economy has since lost some of its shine, falling into a recession during the “lost” decade of the noughties, signs of a recovery were certainly there before the tragic social and economic losses wreaked by the devastating tsunami of over a year ago.
Readers won’t need to be reminded of the weeks of suspense for the Japanese people as the Fukushima reactor began its meltdown, spewing radioactive waste into the surrounds risking lives and livelihoods. However will some good come out of such a tragic event? The country is no stranger from fighting back from seemingly impossible odds and it is here that the Ministry of Trade has apparently stepped up to the plate to once again help revive the country’s economy.
This time though, it seems the ministry may be promoting a sea change in attitude towards renewable energy, with a proposed feed-in tariff policy that makes any offered by Australian state and federal governments laughable.
As always with Japanese policy, once done it means things are not done by halves. Just read the below quote from the renewable energy magazine Renewable Energy World.com on the magnitude of the policy change should it be implemented.
In what may be the most significant renewable energy policy development worldwide in years, Japanese authorities are circulating proposed feed-in tariffs that-if confirmed by the Minister of Trade later this month-could lead to a crash renewables program.
Equivalent to putting the country on a war-time footing following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the unusually high tariffs will lead to a massive rush of renewable energy development.
“Massive rush?” “War footing? It remains to be seen whether or not the country follows through with a renewables policy that would leave other countries floundering in its wake, or revert to nuclear along with fossil fuel when it is politically expedient to do so. The internecine world of Japanese politics means that such proposals are often watered down beyond recognition (or not implemented at all) as the vested interests put the pressure on.
However led by the mighty METI, a turn around towards a more energetic (wrong word I know) renewable energy policy may well place pressure on the other renewable superpower of the region, China, perhaps kick starting a new, Japanese-led solar revolution.
And the implications for our country should such a policy go ahead? Watch this space.