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.
In response to our Comment in Nature (1), Cherp and Jewell write that Japan's ambition for renewables was not altered by the Fukushima disaster (2). Although the evidence they present is technically accurate and their point on the decreased role of nuclear is correct, we would like to bring a broader context to the readers’ attention.
According to an article in Kommersant, a Russian business daily, Rosatom, the Russian state-owned corporation specialising in manufacturing of nuclear equipment and construction of nuclear plants is on the way to dominate Russian wind power market.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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".
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.