The Green Path for Japan


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The Green Path for Japan

  1. 1. The Green Path to a Safe, Natural Energy Future An Open Letter to the Japanese PeopleJuly 19, 2011Dear friends in Japan,We have been emotionally shocked by the earthquakes and tsunami that have hit your country. Our heartsreach out to you. We live across the ocean on Canada’s west coast, and our cherry blossoms bloom at thesame time that yours do.My personal work is devoted to creating a vision of a more sustainable world, and doing what I can tomake it happen. I dream of a green economy in which everyone will be able to live and work in harmonywith nature, benefiting from solar panels, electric cars, safe bicycle lanes, high speed trains and sociablevillage communities, enjoying lives that are rich in fulfillment and meaning.You face a very immediate energy crisis, with so much nuclear and fossil fuelled electrical capacity out ofaction because of the disasters. Some people say nuclear power is still safe, and that you should buildmore new reactors. Others say you must tackle your energy crisis by importing more coal, oil and gas,and burning more fossil fuels. I believe that both routes will bring disaster.I have never been a fan of nuclear power. I worry about its dangers, its very high financial cost 1, and thenuclear wastes that will remain radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. The private sector neverinvests in nuclear power unless it is heavily subsidized by the government, and when there is a disaster,most of the cost is carried by the public, not by the nuclear industry.Meanwhile, the world’s climate scientists are warning us that if we continue to burn fossil fuels, Earth’stemperature could rise by as much as 4° to 6°C by the end of the century. These are very alarmingnumbers, because geology tells us that the last time the world was 3°C warmer, the sea level was 25metres higher.The Danger of Sea Level RiseOur oceans and atmosphere are already warming. Ice is melting all over the world. In 1996, theEnvironment Agency of Japan released data which showed that if the sea-level around Japan rose by justone metre, 15 million people would have to move, and assets worth 378 trillion yen ($4.5 trillion) on9,000 square kilometres would be affected.2 The latest scientific report suggests that the sea-level couldrise by up to 1.6 metres by the end of this century.3Open Letter to Japanese People 1
  2. 2. Earthquakes and tsunamis will always happen, for we can’t stop tectonic plates from moving or the oceanfrom responding. But to contemplate a tsunami on top of a 25 metre sea-level rise is unthinkable, whenwe know the death and destruction that was caused by this tsunami, without any sea-level rise. So manypeople are grieving. So many people are still traumatized by the dark deadly waters. So many people havelost their lives.I have never visited your country, but I have been thinking a lot about your country’s energy crisis. Withfour of your six Fukushima nuclear reactors dead, many other TEPCO and Tohuku power plantsdamaged, and 27 nuclear power plants closed down, how will you meet your future electricity needs?Some people say nuclear power is still safe, and it was only the bad design of the Fukushima reactors thatcaused their failure. Until May 10th, when Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced that the government wasscrapping the plan, Japan’s electrical utilities were planning to greatly increase your dependence onnuclear power.A nuclear reactor must always be cooled, which is why every Japanese reactor is by the sea, where futuretsunamis and sea-level rise will always threaten them. New nuclear reactors will be hugely expensive,requiring huge government subsidies, and the problems of the radioactive wastes will remain. Nuclearreactors also take at least ten years to build, so a planned nuclear expansion will do nothing to meet yourimmediate power crisis.Others say Japan must burn more fossil fuels to make electricity, and import more natural gas, oil andcoal. But this too would be a disaster, because it would speed up global warming, and the accompanyingsea level rise. The prices of coal, gas and oil are bound to rise, and every yen that is spent to buy themwill leave the Japanese economy. To invest in old technologies that require more imported fossil fuels atan ever-increasing cost will impose an enormous cost on your next generations, and make the world amore dangerous place.Our energy does not need to come from fossil fuels or nuclear power. It can come direct from Nature -from the sun, wind, earth and water, that will never run out or disappear.The sun will continue to send us energy for five billion years, before it becomes a red giant. The wind willnot stop blowing. The gravitational pull of the earth, moon and sun that causes the rain to fall and thetides to change will not stop. The rocks beneath us will not stop being geothermally hot. We aresurrounded by safe, renewable energy given to us freely by Nature.Is 100% Renewable Electricity Possible for Japan?Could Japan could meet all her energy needs by following a green path to a safe, natural energy future?To explore this question, we have to look at some numbers.In 2009, Japan used 858 TWh (terawatt-hours) of electricity.4 30% was generated by nuclear power. 26%came from burning gas, 25% from coal, 9% from hydropower, 8% from oil, and only 1% from solar,wind and geothermal power. 84% of Japan’s primary energy supply is imported, including the uraniumfor the nuclear reactors.Could 100% of Japan’s electricity come from renewables, with no need for imported uranium, coal orgas? Rapid change happens all the time. It is only 133 years since electricity was first used in Japan. IfJapan could demonstrate that a large developed nation could operate on 100% renewable electricity, theglobal impact would be enormous. Japan’s economy would benefit greatly from the innovation,investments and jobs that would occur, and the money spent on energy would stay within Japan’seconomy, instead of leaving the country for Saudi Arabia, Canada, Russia, and other fossil fuel anduranium exporters.So what does the challenge look like when we wrestle it to the ground?Open Letter to Japanese People 2
  3. 3. As Japan’s drivers change to electric vehicles, as more buses become electric and as more buildings areheated with electrical heat pumps that extract heat from the air, ground or water, the demand forelectricity will rise by perhaps 15%, increasing the electricity needed to 1,000 TWh.The Goal: 1,000 TWh a yearCould Japan generate 1,000 TWh of electricity a year using renewable sources only? The research that Ihave read tells me the answer is yes. The numbers that I have used below come from a variety of sources,including a 2010 study by Japan’s Ministry of Environment.5Efficiency: 170 - 429 TWh/yearIf there was a huge drive for greater energy conservation and energy efficiency, the amount of electricityneeded could be reduced. Already, people all over Japan are making an extra effort to save energybecause of the current energy crisis.In 2001, Greenpeace International and Greenpeace Japan published an important report titled Energy RichJapan, which concluded that overall demand could be reduced by 50% below the current demand (858TWh), a number supported by the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies in Tokyo. Even a 20%reduction, saving 170 TWh a year, would be a huge achievement.Solar Energy: 72 - 300 TWh/yearJapan is a world leader in the use of solar energy, but the number of solar installations is still quite small,at 3664 MW, producing 3.8 TWh a year6. The government hopes to increase this to 53,000 MW by 2030,producing 56 TWh, but the current policy is very flat, and this is still a relatively small amount.Pal Town Neighbourhood, Ota, near TokyoJapan has 54 million housing units. If 50 million homes each had a 4 kW PV system on its roof, totaling200,000 MW, this would produce 210 TWh a year. With solar installations also on commercial rooftops,building facades, parking lots and alongside railways, up to 300 TWh could be generated.The Fukushima exclusion zone, stretching 30 kilometres from the damaged reactors, covers 1400 squarekilometres (140,000 hectares). If the radioactive zone was turned into a giant solar farm, this area alonecould produce 40 TWh a year.7The Ministry of Environment’s report that Japan has solar energy potential in the range of 72 - 105 TWha year; the Energy Rich Japan report suggests 118 to 295 TWh a year. The numbers vary, based ondifferent assumptions. There is even research being done into the possibility of repaving roads with solarcells, since the sun shines on most roads, all roads must be paved, and asphalt, which made from oil, isalready becoming very expensive.8Open Letter to Japanese People 3
  4. 4. “But solar is too expensive!” you might respond. The price of solar PV is falling steadily as the demandincreases. Since 2000, the global market for solar PV has grown from 170 MW to 170 GW - a thousand-fold increase - and the price has fallen by 50% in the last 4 years. In the US, the average installed price in2010 was $5.13 per watt. The solar expert Jigar Shah, who is CEO of the Carbon War Room, says that by2012, the installed price could fall to as low as $2.60 per watt.The hope in the solar industry is that solar PV will soon reach “grid parity” at a price of 12 Yen (15 cents)kWh ($2 per watt). Since Japanese households pay 20 Yen/kWh for electricity, any investment in solarPV is very smart. Solar energy also matches Japan’s peak power demand, which rises by 50% during thehot summer months of July and August when the air conditioners are switched on.Wind Energy: 570 - 5,000 TWh/yearJapan has been slow to develop its wind power potential, because here too, your government’s policieshave been slow. In 2010, there was 2,304 MW of wind energy, producing around 5 TWh a year. Thegovernment’s goal for 2030 is 20,000 MW, producing 52 TWh.9The Ministry of Environment report (April 2011) reports “extremely large” wind energy potential, with280 GW of land-based wind potential and 1,200 GW of off-shore potential, producing up to 5,000 TWh ayear.10 A 2009 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimated 570 TWh fromland-based turbines, and 2,700 TWh from off-shore turbines.11Kamisu Wind Farm, Kanto Region. Wind Power IbarakiOffshore wind is an exciting area, since Japan is surrounded by ocean. Spread along the 2,500 km ofJapan’s eastern coastline, clusters of turbines could be 20 kilometres apart. Each turbine on the oceanfloor would create new marine habitat, supporting marine life, and fishing could continue between theturbines.Most ocean turbines sit on the ocean bottom, which limits their use to shallow waters, but Norway’sStatoil Hydro is pioneering a deep-water floating wind turbine, called Hywind. It does not swing morethan 3 degrees away from the vertical, and can withstand the strongest typhoon.12Open Letter to Japanese People 4
  5. 5. Horns Rev ocean wind farm, DenmarkWith both land-based and ocean turbines, where the clusters were located is something that would needmuch discussion.In the media, you can read stories about how wind turbines kill birds, or make a terrible noise. None ofthis is true. The number of birds killed by wind turbines is very small - many times less than the birdskilled by cats, cars, and high rise buildings.It is easy to say “NO” to new ideas, but every “NO” to renewable energy is a “YES” to more nuclearpower and more fossil fuels that will speed up global warming and cause the sea level to rise. This is theprice of a “NO”.Geothermal Energy: 98 - 500 TWh/YearJapan is one of the world’s most tectonically active areas, with 28,000 onsen and nearly 200 volcanoes,and many onsen (hot springs). The rocks several kilometres underground are hot, and in an area such asJapan, the heat is closer to the surface.So far, Japan has built 20 geothermal power plants with 540 MW of capacity, which produce 3 TWh ofelectricity a year.13 With the best policies, there is huge potential to do more.In their 2010 Country Update for Japan 14, Hiroki Sugino and Toshihiro Akeno estimate that Japan has anestimated geothermal potential of 23,500 MW, which could produce 155 TWh a year. Dr. HirofumiMuraoka, of Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, suggests that afurther 49,000 MW is possible when you drill 3 to 4 km underground, and that an additional 8,330 MWcould be produced from onsen, for a total of 80,830 MW.15 Since geothermal energy is not intermittent,like wind or solar, this much capacity could produce over 500 TWh of electricity a year. The Ministry ofEnvironment report, on the other hand, suggests figures ranging from 30 to 92 TWh.Open Letter to Japanese People 5
  6. 6. Hatchobaru Geothermal Power Plant, Kokonoe Town, Oita PrefecturePhoto: Prof. Sachio Ehara90% of the best locations for geothermal energy are in your national parks, so there would need to be adebate about what is acceptable. Your parks cover 20,000 square kilometres, or 14% of your land area, ofwhich 6% are in Special Protection zones. A typical geothermal facility uses 400 square meters perGWh of electricity, so 500 TWh of geothermal production would occupy 20 square kilometres ofland, or 1/1000 th of Japan’s parks area.16Hydro Power: 79-140 TWh/yearNature has also given us gravity, which causes rain and snow to fall from the sky, allowing us to generateelectricity from hydropower. Japan has 22,000 MW of hydropower, which produces 92 TWh ofelectricity a year. In a 2007 presentation 17, Eiji Yamamoto of Japan’s New Energy Foundation showedthat a further 12,000 MW was possible. Combined with Japan’s existing hydropower, it could produce140 TWh of electricity a year.18 The Ministry of Environment’s report suggests 42 to 80 TWh, whileadmitting that it’s numbers may be on the conservative side. This would require many small “run of river”diversion projects, in which water is diverted from a flow of water and then returned after the energy inthe water’s flow has been gathered.Tidal and Wave Power: 20 - 70 TWh/yearThe power of the ocean is enormous - as we have just seen so tragically - but it can also be used togenerate energy from the tides and waves. South Korea is building 90 MW tidal power plant at Uldolmok,and China has built 8 tidal power stations with a total capacity of 6 MW.Japan has a huge coastline, and Nova Energy has installed 20.5 kw turbines in the Akashi Strait19 in theSeto Inland Sea, which is a good location for development due to its many narrow island passages, whichincrease tidal velocity.20 One estimate suggests that Japan’s ocean energy may be able to produce around70 TWh a year.21Open Letter to Japanese People 6
  7. 7. South Korea’s 1 MW Jindo Uldolmok tidal power plantCan It Be Done?The goal for electricity is 1000 TWh a year. The low estimates show that Japan could produce almost100% of its electricity from renewables; the high estimates provide 600% more electricity than is needed,creating room for choice. Low HighEfficiency 200 500Solar PV 72 300Wind 570 5000Geothermal 30 500Hydro 79 140Tidal and Wave 20 70Per year… 971 6510The investments needed will be large, but the money will remain within Japan, and be financed throughutility bill payments. Paul Gipe, the American energy specialist who has become a global leader inpromoting the Feed-In Tariff as the best way to promote the rapid acceleration of renewable energy, hasestimated that if Japan were to follow Germany’s lead on renewable energy, using a robust,comprehensive Feed-In Tariff, it could generate 180 TWh of new renewable electricity within ten years,six times more energy that the six damaged reactors at Fukushima produced before the tsunami.22The different kinds of energy would need to be integrated, using geothermal and hydro power as firmenergy to balance the intermittent solar, wind, tidal and wave energy. You would also need newtransmission lines, and many other innovations.But this is only electricity. What about the energy needed for transport, and heat? This too comes mostlyfrom fossil fuels that Japan imports as oil, gas, and coal for industrial heat. There are many importantquestions which must be researched.In April 2011, Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, said that oil may havealready peaked in 200623. The global price of oil may soon pass $150 a barrel, and the price at the pumpmay reach 200 yen per litre. As Japan looks to the future, it must accept the inevitability that the world’ssupply of affordable oil will soon disappear.Could all of Japan’s transportation needs be met with electric and hybrid electric vehicles, electric citybuses, electric railways for freight and passengers, safe routes for cycling, electric bicycles, and moretelecommuting and telemeetings? Toyota and Honda have led the world with their hybrid vehicles, andOpen Letter to Japanese People 7
  8. 8. Mitsubishi with its i-MiEV - many i-MiEVs were used in the region around Sendai after the earthquakewhen gasoline was not available, and they performed admirably.24Toyota EV for 2012 and electric charging stationA i-MiEV at work near SendaiCould your trucks, ships and airplanes run on biofuels made from algae? How much bioenergy couldJapan produce?Could Japan’s buildings be heated using electrically powered heat pumps, district heating, biomass heatand power, and solar thermal heating for space and water? Could Japan’s industry and manufacturingoperate with high temperature heat from hydrogen or biofuel?There is so much innovation happening in the world, and for many years, Japan has been a globaltechnological leader. This is a global problem that we all face - it is not just Japan’s problem. We needyour skill and expertise to develop new kinds of renewable heat, fuel, and power, new kinds of electricbatteries, and new super-efficient appliances and machines. We can not continue on our current path. As aworld, we must change - and we need your help.Is Renewable Energy A Sensible Path?When you consider the many different factors related to energy which will impact Japan’s futureeconomy (see below), it seems clear to me that this would be a highly sensible approach. Increasedreliance on nuclear power or fossil fuels makes very little sense. As well as producing pollution andradioactive wastes and increasing global warming, the price of the imported fuels is guaranteed to rise,since they are scarce resources in a very competitive world.When you use renewable energy, on the other hand, the investment happens in Japan, the innovationhappens in Japan, the jobs are created in Japan, the money spent on energy remains in Japan, and theexport of new clean energy technologies flows from Japan.Open Letter to Japanese People 8
  9. 9. Around the world, a green energy revolution is happening, with more money being invested inrenewables ($150 billion in 2009) than in new fossil fuel production. China and Germany are eachinvesting $25 to $30 billion a year in renewable energy, but with its current policies, Japan does not makethe list.25 Impact on Japan’s Future Economy Fossil Fuels Nuclear Renewables 1. Requires imported fuel YES YES NO 2. Danger of fuel supply running scarce YES YES NO 3. Creates local pollution YES YES NO 4. Causes global warming YES NO NO 5. Very vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis NO YES NO 6. Creates long-term dangerous wastes NO YES NO 7. Increasing cost over time YES YES NO 8. Exports yen from Japan’s economy YES YES NO 9. Retains yen within Japan’s economy NO NO YES 10. Falling costs over time NO NO YES 11. Generates many new jobs in Japan NO NO YES 12. Generates technological innovation in Japan NO NO YES 13. Resilience against natural disaster NO NO YESSoon after the earthquake and tsunami, Softbank’s Chief Executive, Masayoshi Son, pledged a billion yen($12 million) to establish a renewable energy foundation, and said that he would set up an advisorycommittee promoting renewable energy, seeking the installation of 30 GW of new renewable energywithin six years. He expressed the desire to meet with 100 of the world’s top leaders in renewable energy,to seek their advice. This is exactly the kind of thinking that is needed. Andrew DeWit, an energy andfinance specialist at Rikko University, said in his March 2011 article The Earthquake in Japanese EnergyPolicy, “policy choices made now, in the midst of this crisis, and right in its wake, will be of the utmostimportance in shaping the future.”Every crisis brings both danger and the need for resolute action. I urge you to use this terrible disaster thatyou have suffered and the energy crisis that it has caused to change direction, and seek a green path intothe future - a path that is friendly with nature, and that does not increase the risk of nuclear disaster orglobal warming, does not make you vulnerable to the increasing cost of imported power, and will protectyou against the looming energy crisis that will be result from the peak oil.Imagine, if you were to say with confidence “We will embrace this challenge”.There is a video that was made to celebrate the launch of the Kyushu Shinkansen high speed rail line,which connects Hakata to Kagoshima. The video was made on March 11th, and then the earthquakehappened. The planned launch was cancelled, and the video was never broadcast. But it is amazing - youcan see it on YouTube. I imagine the same kind of celebration each time Japan reaches a new goal: 10%renewable energy - 20% renewable energy - 30% renewable energy...Here’s how the closing words of the video have been translated:On that day, you waved at us. Thank you. You smiled for us. Thank you. You came together as one for us.Thank you. From now, Japan is linked together, from top to bottom. From now, Japan will become fun.I imagine a new video, celebrating the success of powering the whole country with renewable energy.And these are the closing words:On that day, you waved at us. Thank you. You smiled for us. Thank you. You came together as one for us.Thank you. Japan is now powered by 30% renewable energy, from top to bottom. Soon, we will reach100%. From now, Japan will become fun.Open Letter to Japanese People 9
  10. 10. With care and compassion,Guy Dauncey is President of the BC Sustainable Energy Association, and author of the award-winningbook The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming (New Society Publishers, 2009). and www.theclimatechallenge.caSources:Energy Rich Japan, by Greenpeace International and Greenpeace Japan, 2001. www.energyrichjapan.infoFederation of Electric Power Companies of Japan: www.fepc.or.jpInstitute for Sustainable Energy Policies: http://www.isep.or.jpJapan’s Geothermal Energy: our nuclear in Japan, by Dave Elliot (UK Open University), 2011. Energy and Social Innovation in Japan, Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies.Renewable Japan Status Report 2010: of Potential for the Introduction of Renewable Energy. Climate Change Policy Division, Ministryof Environment, Japan. April 2011.Time to Rethink Japan’s Energy Policy, by Matt Roney, Earth Policy Institute, 2011. Earthquake in Japanese Energy Policy, by Andrew DeWit. The Asia Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 13No 1, March 28 2011Guy Dauncey1 The staggering cost of new nuclear power, by Joe Romm. Climate Progress, January 5, Effect of Sea-level Rise on Japan. CGER, Data Book on Sea-Level Rise. Tokyo: Center for Global EnvironmentalResearch, Environment Agency of Japan, 1996. pp. 67-68. Scientific America, May 3, 20114 Study of Potential for the Introduction of Renewable Energy. Climate Change Policy Division, Ministry ofEnvironment, Japan. April 2011. Study of Potential for the Introduction of Renewable Energy. Climate Change Policy Division, Ministry ofEnvironment, Japan. April 2011.6 This assumes a 12% capacity factor - that solar PV will produce power on average for 12% of the time.7 In Ontario, Canada, the 80 MW Sarnia Solar Project occupies 384 hectares, and produces 120 GWh a year. On thisbasis, 1 hectare of solar PV produces 0.312 GWh/yr. 140,000 hectares = 43,750 GWh or 43 TWh/yr.8 See and www.solarroadways.com9 Existing wind energy - 25% capacity factor. New wind energy 30%. Off-shore wind 40%.10 New land-based wind 30%. Off-shore wind 40%.11 Global potential for wind-generated electricity by Xi Lua, Michael B. McElroya and Juha Kiviluomac See Assumes a 75% capacity factor14 Proceedings World Geothermal Congress 2010 Bali, Indonesia, 25-29 April 2010. Personal email from Matt Roney, Worldwatch Institute, author of Time to Rethink Japan’s Energy PolicyOpen Letter to Japanese People 10
  11. 11. 16 Characteristics, Development and Utilization of Geothermal Resources, by John Lund, Oregon Institute ofTechnology, 2007. Status of Hydropower in Japan 65% capacity factor19 See See 30 to 50 GW. Assume 40 GW, 30% capacity factor22 What Feed-in Tariffs could do for Japan’s Electricity Shortage, by Paul Gipe. See After Disaster Hit Japan, Electric Cars Stepped Up - New York Times, May 6 2011. Renewables 2010 Global Status Report. www.ren21.netOpen Letter to Japanese People 11