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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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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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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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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Sustainable lifestyles and political economy of energy transitions

How do the three perspectives on energy transitions view the role of lifestyle changes? The techno-economic perspective points to the quantitative importance of lifestyle changes but is agnostic about their driving forces. The techno-social perspective identifies historic evidence for the key role of energy end-uses in transitions, but views the timing and direction of such changes as largely unpredictable. The political perspective highlights the importance of state intervention but is still under-theoritized with respect to modern energy challenges and technologies.

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When Do States Invest in Energy Security?

The article by Andrew Cheon and Johannes Urpelainen in the Journal of Conflict Resolution proposes an elegant method of explaining energy R&D in OECD countries by tying it to military expenditures and the concentration of the global oil production in the Middle East. The paper would benefit from more systematically defining its independent variable (energy security as extending beyond using oil in military conflicts) and dependent variable (energy policy as extending beyond R&D expenditures).

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