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.

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)

Onsen Power Coming to Japan Much Sooner Than Expected

New cheap and efficient micro binary power generation systems from several manufacturers to also use industrial waste heat.

Japanese onsen resorts are hot spring baths which dot the geologically active nation. Japan has over 28,000 onsen hot springs discharging more than 2.75 million liters of hot spring water goodness every minute of every day.

That’s a heck of a lot of energy potential. Unlike solar or wind, this renewable energy source is stable, consistent and can can easily replace nuclear or fossil energy if harnessed properly.

Several Japanese manufacturers are about to ship systems called Micro Binary Generators which allow electricity to be generated from this massive resource without affecting the quality of the treasured onsen baths themselves. As an additional benefit, these systems also generate power from waste heat at factories and other facilities.

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The SmartScarecrow Show: Thorium Myths – Renewable Realities

The SmartScarecrow Show is a fun weekly live streaming video show and podcast about alternative energy. I was interviewed today regarding thorium myths and renewable energy realities.

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Power Play – Germany : Great Short Film on Energy Revolution [Video]

Journeyman Films has a great short film on the energy revolution happening in Germany. It focuses on two villages, Schönau and Feldheim.

One interesting point is that the film translates the German term for feed-in tariffs as ‘subsidies’. According to Renewables International, the word actually translates as “funding”:

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