Japan Adds Massive Amount of Renewables Thanks to FITs

Japan’s government finally released the June 2013 non-large hydroelectric renewable energy capacity numbers last night. These represent the results of the first year since the implementation of Japan’s aggressive Feed-in Tariff program in July of 2012. The numbers are impressive. Here they are:

Existing Renewable Energy Capacity up to June 2012: 20 GW
New Renewable Energy Capacity Installed July 2012 through June 2013: 3.7 GW
New Renewable Energy Capacity Approved Pipeline: 23 GW

Solar PV makes up about 90% of the newly installed capacity.

Interestingly, the media has started to spin the numbers a bit. According to a Jiji story which was picked up by Nikkei, Sankei and others, Japan added “3 nuclear reactors” worth of renewables. The number “3” seems to be based on  new nuclear reactors only which have a rated output of about 1.2 GW. Bloomberg, however, calls the new capacity “nearly 4 nuclear reactors” worth using a calculation of 1 GW per reactor.

In reality, the worldwide average nuclear reactor power output is about 800 MW which puts the number of nuclear reactor equivalents at about 5 here in Japan.

Whatever the number of reactors worth, it is a large amount of clean, safe, renewable power, indeed. It is especially large considering that Japan currently has ZERO nuclear reactors working right now. And has only had two of its fifty reactors running for the past year.

It should also be noted that Japan’s government has slowed down its release of this information. During the prior DPJ administration these reports were released within two or three weeks of the end of each month. Since the current LDP administration took over in January 2013, the ENECHO reports have been delayed by months at a time. Based on the old administration’s timeline, the July and August reports should have been released by now, and the September report should be released within a week or two. I have a strong suspicion that the numbers are being delayed due to politics of the current pro-nuclear administration.

Here is ENECHO Japanese language release page for the details.

Nuclear Was One Quarter of Japan’s Power Supply, Not “One Third”

*** UPDATE October 1, 2013 ***
A well recognized energy analyst based in Japan and I had a fairly in depth discussion in the comments of this post. Here is a quick summary of my take away on this issue. Please see the comments section for the details:

1. Nuclear was in fact only about a quarter (25.4%) of Japan’s total electricity generated for the five years up to the Fukushima catastrophe. Nuclear was not “about one third,” nor was it “about 30%.”

2.  One reason that the share of nuclear power has been inflated is due to calculations which fudge the math to show an exaggerated share for nuclear. Some people are dividing the IEA’s Production from nuclear number into the Final consumption number instead of the Total production figure without subtracting any of the transmission/distribution and other losses. This calculation alone inflates the nuclear percentage by about 12% for 2010 alone.

3. Another reason is that some analysts are neglecting to count power generated by non-utilities such as TEPCO and the other regional monopolies. There are various reasons why specialized analysts may want to do this based on their definition of the electricity market, however, this discounts much of the electric power actually generated in Japan and further exaggerates the importance of nuclear power.

Unless a journalist, blogger, or others in the media are describing specific and clearly defined subsets of the Japanese electricity situation, the correct approximation to use is “about a quarter.”

*** End of UPDATE ***

Journalists are consistently misreporting the amount of electricity that nuclear power provided the Japanese market prior to the Fukushima nuclear radiation catastrophe in 2011. Many reports falsely state that nuclear energy provided “one third” or “30%” of Japan’s electricity before Fukushima’s reactors devastated the nation. This is simply not true. In fact, nuclear was only providing about a quarter of Japan’s electrical power in the years prior to the catastrophe.

Here are some examples of inaccurate reporting:

“used to provide almost a third of the nation’s electricity”
Reuters story by Linda Sieg

“plans to raise nuclear capacity from one-third to over half of total demand”
AP story by Elaine Kurtenbach (published on Huffington Post)

“no firm date for bringing back an energy source that had covered about a third of the country’s electricity needs”
Reuters story by Tetsushi Kajimoto

“nuclear reactors provided close to a third of the electricity to keep the $5-trillion economy going before the Fukushima disaster”
Reuters story by Osamu Tsukimori

“until three years ago provided 30% of the electricity to power the world’s third largest economy”
The Guardian story by Phillip Inman & Terry Macalister

There are numerous similarly incorrect statements in other reports.

In 2010, the year prior to the horrific catastrophe, Japan only generated 25.8% of its electric power with nuclear according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) statistics. Here are actual production numbers from the IEA for the five years leading up to the Fukushima radiation disaster:

Japan's Nuclear Production

Obviously, nuclear never got even close to a third of Japan’s electricity production, nor was it even thirty percent.

Why then do journalists consistently misreport this information? Well, the nuclear industry can be to blame at least in part. A friend on twitter pointed out that the World Nuclear Association’s (WNA) profile on Japan makes claims that could confuse journalists. The WNA is, however, a public relations arm of the nuclear industry and can be expected to exaggerate nuclear’s importance – it is in their vested interest.

My twitter friend also pointed out that Japan’s Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPC) also makes a similar “about 30%” claim. The FEPC is also highly vested in promoting nuclear power and can be expected to similarly “spin” atomic energy in a positive light.

Further, another friend on twitter who is a prominent and respected journalist pointed out to me that the confusion over the numbers could possibly be since the nuclear portion of total demand, rather than total supply, might be seen as higher than 25%. This would be since actual demand or consumption of electricity is generally smaller than supply due to various losses such as transmission loss. This explanation does not make sense to me for several reasons.

One glaring reason is that neither Japan nor the IEA publishes consumption of electricity by source, only as a part of total production. It is not clear which source, nuclear or other, is being consumed. So it is very difficult, if not impossible for a journalist to report that “nuclear is X% of consumption.”

Another reason is that nuclear suffers more from transmission loss than other forms of electric power generation. Due to the very real risks that nuclear poses, atomic energy plants are necessarily located far from population centers where the bulk of electricity is consumed. As a portion of electricity consumed, nuclear would suffer more from losses than other forms of power and therefore it seems unlikely that the Japanese power industry would want to show that off.

My own best guess at this point is that the industry spinmeisters have been exaggerating the importance of nuclear power for a long time, and unfortunately, some journalists are not taking the time to check their sources or the math.

In any event, nuclear is now zero percent of Japan’s electric supply. Hopefully it will stay that way for a very long time.

Former Prime Minister Calls For Elimination of Nuclear Power In Japan


Popular former Prime Minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizumi has called for the elimination of nuclear power in Japan. More information is available at various news stories including:

Japan Daily Press, “Ex-PM Junichiro Koizumi pushes for a ‘zero nuclear power’ Japan

Nippon.com, “Koizumi Comes Out Against Nukes

Mainichi.jp, “Junichiro Koizumi’s Zero Nuclear” (Japanese)

This is quite a big event as Mr. Koizumi is still an immensely popular and respected figure in Japanese politics, even though he is retired.

Mr. Koizumi’s comments could not be more timely as the situation at Fukushima is spinning wildly out of control.

I’ll try to add more information and comments as I learn more.

Japan Renewables Rapidly Accelerating

Japan renewable energy facilities came online at nearly four times the pace of last year for the first two months of the fiscal year beginning in April 2013.

According to the much delayed report released by Japan’s METI a few days ago, renewable energy facilities came online at a far accelerated pace compared to the previous year. In the April 2012 to March 2013 period just over 2GW of new renewable energy power generation facilities came online. In the two month period of April-May 2013 alone, Japan added approximately 1.3GW of additional facilities which is nearly 4X the pace of the previous year on a per month basis.

Non-hydro renewable energy facilities as of May, 2013

New facilities are coming online at accelerated rates in Japan.

This accelerated pace of adoption is apparently the basis for the prediction of approximately 6 to 9 GW of new generation facilities to come online for the current fiscal year.

As noted in my previous post, Japan also approved a huge amount of new renewable energy facilities to the tune of 26+ nuclear reactors worth of power generation. Japan based analyst Dr. Gerhard Fasol noted that new approvals appear to be slowing down. Personally, I am a bit wary of making any judgement at this point. There is a huge backlog of approved projects in the pipeline, and cautious Japanese investors are most likely evaluating the new (and still very generous) feed-in tariff rates that were introduced for solar power as of April this year. More information will need to be released before any judgement can be made whether or not Japan’s renewable boom is here to stay.

More information is available regarding the recent report in Japanese at the METI website.

Japan Adds 4 Nuclear Reactors Worth Of Renewable Energy

After extremely long delays, Japan’s METI has finally announced that the nation has brought about 4 nuclear reactors* worth of renewable energy online since the introduction of its highly successful Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program last year.

Furthermore, Japan has approved more than 26 nuclear reactors* worth of renewable energy facilities during the same period. Approved facilities have not yet come online but have been approved for construction by the government.

The report from METI was published last night in Japan and includes information through May. METI is still running late on publishing data for June and July.

Japan’s FIT program began in July of 2012 and is similar to programs such as Germany’s which have been wildly successful in promoting the creation of renewable energy generation.

Between April 2012 and May 2013, Japan has put 3.359 Gigawatts of renewable energy generation facilities online according to the reports.  The report also reveals that in the 10 month period since the start of the FIT program in July of 2012, new renewable energy facilities capable of generating 22.372 Gigawatts of power have been approved by the government.

At the rapid pace that Japan is installing renewable energy, it is possible for Japan to completely replace its destroyed or shutdown nuclear power facilities within just a few short years.

Japan has a vast and untapped amount of renewable energy resources including solar, wind, small and medium hydro, geothermal, biomass, wave and others. The island nation also has huge potential gains possible via energy efficiency due to its amazing lack of any building energy standards.

* The average existing nuclear reactor output worldwide is approximately 850 Megawatts or .85 Gigawatts per reactor according to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013.

P.S. Thanks to the excellent Lenz Blog for posting about the release of the METI report. Also thanks to this tweet from the very knowledgable Hironao Matsubara.

Japan Government Hiding Renewable Energy Progress

Japan’s current administration appears to be suppressing the release of official statistics regarding the rapid growth of renewable energy.

Prior to January of this year, the relevant ministry released monthly reports on renewable energy installations. After the year end elections of the pro-nuclear LDP administration, the monthly reports began to be delayed.

The February report was released months late in May, and the critical fiscal year end March report has yet to be released as of this writing in Mid August.

Industry and government insiders, researchers, and renewable energy activists that I spoke with believe the pro-nuclear Abe administration is trying to hide the massive growth of renewables in an attempt to manipulate public opinion. An uninformed public would be more likely to accept the government’s desire to restart nuclear plants.

I’ve personally called the ministry a number of times over the past several months and gotten no clear response as to why the reports are being delayed. A journalist friend contacted the ministry in mid-July and was told the report would be released by “month’s end” however the reports are still not released.

In context, the apparent suppression of the renewable energy reports coincides with suppression of the large releases of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean by Japan prior to the recent national election. Furthermore, after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, Japan’s freedom of the press has declined dramatically according to Reporters Without Borders.

In my humble opinion, if the Abe administration is truly interested in growing the economy and improving security in Japan, ham-handed attempts at information suppression are highly counter productive. Transparency and accuracy are critical components for Japan’s recovery.

The most recent METI statistics are available here (February 2013, 3 PDF files linked, Japanese).

Journalists and others who are interested can contact the section that prepares the reports directly by telephone to inquire as to the reasons for the delays:

Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI)
Agency for Natural Resources and Energy
Energy Efficiency and New Energy Division
Renewable Energy Promotion Department
Manager: Keisuke Murakami
Other contacts: Yasuda and Nakagawa
Tel: 03-3580-3023 (direct)

“Yarase” Is Astroturfing Propaganda In Japanese

The Japanese government has begun a series of formal public forums ostensibly to gain consensus on three proposed medium-term energy scenarios.  The first two meetings were held last weekend and have led to public outrage over alleged astroturfing propaganda, called yarase (pronounced yah-rah-say if you’re American) in Japanese.

Two forums held in Sendai and Nagoya included high level power industry employees that were supposedly chosen at random from the public to speak out on the energy scenarios in the public forum. The forums are supposed to be fair and represent general public opinion.

At the Sendai forum one of the panel members announced his employer’s outlook on nuclear power – his employer is Tohohoku Electric Power. Another panel member was from a nuclear power association. The revelations lead to understandably extreme outrage from the members of the audience and the discussion had to be cut short.

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