Japan could increase installations of renewable power capacity by up to 3.5GW a year, HSBC Global Research calculates, as the country rethinks the role of nuclear power in the light of the Fukushima disaster.
Under Japan’s 2010 energy policy, the share of the electricity mix generated from nuclear was to have risen from 30% to 50% by 2030. Around 14 extra reactors would have been built. However, since the Fukushima catastrophe, Prime Minister Naoto Kan has said energy policy will be reformulated, with Japan having to “start from scratch”.
Last week, Kan closed the Hamaoka nuclear power plant, which is located on a fault line.
To completely replace this extra capacity with renewables, Japan would have to install about 70GW of mostly wind and solar, according to the bank’s calculations.
In a research note today, HSBC set out the implications of two scenarios: under the first, the extra nuclear capacity is entirely replaced by renewables, while under the second the gap is closed 50% by renewables and 50% through energy efficiency measures.
Japan would have to increase the rate it is installing renewable power capacity by around two or three times the capacity HSBC predicts will go online this year, or an extra 1.75-3.5GW.
“This is just a fraction of the country’s more than 1,500GW of wind and solar potential,” HSBC said, citing a 2010 report by Japan’s environment ministry.
Fossil fuel-fired power stations could also fill part of the gap, but indications are that renewables and energy efficiency are the focus of attention, Nick Robins, an analyst at HSBC, told Environmental Finance.
Announcing the shift in policy last week, Kan said that renewables will be a “key pillar” of Japan’s energy mix.
By. Jess McCabe