Japan energy dilemma

Japanese law requires the government to have an energy strategy plan in place

Keep nuclear power off – or restart nuclear?

Japan’s current energy strategy plan provides for nuclear power to provide 30% of the electricity, rising to 50% in a few years by building additional nuclear power stations.

However, contrary to the current strategy plan the figure below shows, that Japan essentially switched off all nuclear power over the last year, with 2 exceptions.

A new energy strategy plan is delayed, but could be announced in the next few days. The Cabinet is in a dilemma to decide between the interests of the pro-nuclear business association Keidanren and the pro-nuclear electrical industry and considerable anti-nuclear movements in the general (voting) population.

One major problem is that Japan’s energy architecture and electricity industry is regulated by laws and regulations established in 1952. Essentially, Japan’s energy and electricity architecture has been frozen in 1952, and has not been changed until the Fukushima nuclear accident now forces change. The contribution of “new” renewable energy to Japan’s energy mix is so minute (except for water power), that it would be too small to be seen on the figures below. Our Japan-Energy report explains the major issues facing Japan’s energy architecture and its structure.

Japan’s energy peak is in summer (because energy consumption in Japan for air conditioning in summer is higher than for heating in winter), there were no black-outs, or brown-outs – how did Japan manage successfully despite the sudden unplanned exit from nuclear power? Read below…

How did Japan cope with the sudden exit from nuclear power?

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster Japan effectively stopped nuclear power generation. There are no black-outs - how could Japan manage?
After the Fukushima nuclear disaster Japan effectively stopped nuclear power generation. There are no black-outs – how could Japan manage?
Japan's survived by reducing summer peaks, and by increasing traditional caloric power production
Japan’s survived by reducing summer peaks, and by increasing traditional caloric power production

How did Japan cope with the sudden shut-down of nuclear power?

Japan’s peak power consumption is in summer, all nuclear power (with 2 exceptions) was switched off since this spring, and there were no black-outs, no brown-outs, and no major problems. How did Japan achieve this?

As the lower figure shows, traditional caloric energy production was increased by installing new power plants, and by bringing back old caloric power plants which had already been switched off, and by reducing the summer peak compared to recent years through energy savings. It has been estimated that the additional costs for imported fuel are on the order of US$ 40 billion.

Expect Japan’s new national energy strategy plan to be announced in the next few days.

Japan’s energy architecture is maybe a victim of its pre-Fukushima success: because Japan’s electricity supply was working so well, nobody felt motivated enough to change the existing monopolies, grid, energy mix, or to develop renewable energies. More in our Japan-energy report.

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