Comparing energy transitions in Germany and Japan

A new paper contributes to understanding national variations in using low-carbon electricity sources by comparing the evolution of nuclear, wind and solar power in Germany and Japan. We explain why in the 1970s–1980s, the energy paths of the two countries were remarkably similar, but since the 1990s Germany has become a leader in renewables while phasing out nuclear energy, whereas Japan has deployed less renewables while becoming a leader in nuclear power.  

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Renewables targeted before Fukushima

In a recent letter to Nature we argue that Japan had become a world's leader in solar energy long before Fukushima. This is both good and bad news for low-carbon energy transitions. On the one hand, there is no need to wait for a nuclear disaster to develop renewable electricity. On the other hand, solar and wind energy will not magically emerge after an earthquake and a tsunami strike a nuclear power plant.

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Realpolitik is not always a mess: more on coal, nuclear, and renewables in Germany

I am grateful to Craig Morris of energytransition.de for responding to my post on nuclear, coal and renewables in Germany and Japan. Morris calls for focusing on real-world politics of energy transitions, but paradoxically views this politics as a mess. Is Realpolitik really a mess or can it be untangled to highlight useful lessons for countries that want to learn from the Energiewende?

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The engine or a hood ornament? National identity and nuclear power in France

Historian Gabrielle Hecht analyses the development of nuclear power in France as a project of restoring  "the radiance of France", its past glory, through novel technology. She traces a tension between a 'nationalist' and a 'nationalised' ideas of nuclear power and shows how the latter decisively wins at the first sight of the oil crisis. This historical analysis contains important lessons for contemporary energy transitions.

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What does German renewable electricity growth in 2015 tell us about energy transitions?

In 2015, renewable electricity (RE) generation in Germany grew by staggering 31 Twh. The room for this expansion was largely made by increasing generation and export and, to a lesser degree, by closure of a nuclear reactor and decreasing output from imported natural gas. At the same time, the changes in coal-based power were marginal. Can similar growth be sustained in the future or replicated in other countries?

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On the deep state hypothesis

We're very grateful to Jessica Jewell for taking time and effort to comment on our earlier blog on UK nuclear policy. Commentators on all sides are having trouble explaining the intensity of UK government attachments to civil nuclear power. Despite high-level pronouncements, official UK and wider policy data that we cite show economic and broader performance of alternative low carbon options to be manifestly superior to nuclear power.

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Paris agreement urges developed countries to pay ... next to nothing for clean energy transitions

The recent Paris agreement urges developed countries to mobilize $100 bln/year for climate action in the developing world. But this is unlikely to have even a symbolic impact on clean energy transitions, because it could be achieved simply by re-labelling a large portion of the $135 billion of the already existing development assistance as "adaptation".

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Will the conflict between Turkey and Russia harm their joint nuclear power plant?

Since the recent downing of the Russian aircraft over Turkey, the fate of the joint nuclear power plant at Akkuyu is uncertain. Moscow has not stopped supplying European gas in spite of high political tensions, but would it be willing to halt its joint nuclear construction? The way this situation unfolds may shed light on the future of nuclear energy reliant on this type of international cooperation.

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In Germany and Japan less nuclear means more coal but not more renewables

Many people who love renewable energy hate nuclear power and vice versa. But does it mean that these two sources of electricity compete with each other in reality, and not just in the minds of their over-zealous advocates? This post looks at relevant evidence in energy plans and scenarios made in Germany and Japan both before and after the Fukushima accident.

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Is the 'nuclear lobby' or geography to blame for slow progress of wind power in Japan?

Japan lags behind many countries in deploying wind power. It is easy to explain with reference to the 'nuclear lobby' discouraging strong pro-wind policies and incompetent or corrupt bureaucracy slowing down wind power projects. But are these explanations logical and supported by empirical evidence? We believe that the facts tell otherwise and that slow wind power deployment in Japan is better explained by socio-technical rather than political factors.

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EU energy security is only as strong as its weakest link: the former Eastern Bloc

Though mitigating climate change does not contradict improving energy security in Europe, these goals imply different priorities. Climate mitigation measures should concentrate on larger emitters which tend to be more secure, whereas energy security policies should prioritise most vulnerable countries which are often small and insignificant from the climate point of view.

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Germany phases out nuclear reactors because they are getting old

Is Germany shutting down its nuclear power in a brave but reckless move? Or is it guided by economic rationality and avoiding unnecessary risks? We review historic data to show that no large, safe and legal reactor has ever been or is planned to shut down in Germany unless it is between 31 and 36 years old. This may be because German government reasonably assumes that shutting down a reactor under 30 is unprofitable whereas letting a reactor go over 40 is risky. 

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2°C and the American Civil War

To save the climate we must leave a large part of proven fossil reserves in the ground. The abolition of slavery is one of the historic precedents of taking economic assets of similar size away from a politically powerful group.

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Solar PV in Germany and Japan: a catch-up game

Throughout the 1990s there were 6-7 times more solar PV installations in Japan than in Germany, growing about 40% per year in both countries. In the 2000s a similar growth continued in Japan, whereas German solar grew with some 80% per year. Germany overtook Japan in in 2004 and had 5 times larger capacity by 2011. Since 2011 the pattern of growth has reversed so that Japan is likely to have more cumulative solar PV capacity in the next year or two.

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