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 1970sā€“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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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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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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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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