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How Opposite Energy Policies Turned The Fukushima Disaster Into A Loss For Japan And A Win For Germany via Forbes

Japan thinks of itself as famously poor in energy, but this national identity rests on a semantic confusion. Japan is indeed poor in fossil fuels—but among all major industrial countries, it’s the richest in renewable energy like sun, wind, and geothermal. For example, Japan has nine times Germany’s renewable energy resources. Yet Japan makes about nine times less of its electricity from renewables (excluding hydropower) than Germany does.

That’s not because Japan has inferior engineers or weaker industries, but only because Japan’s government allows its powerful allies—regional utility monopolies—to protect their profits by blocking competitors. Since there’s no mandatory wholesale power market, only about 1% of power is traded, and utilities own almost all the wires and power plants and hence can decide whom they will allow to compete against their own assets, the vibrant independent power sector has only a 2.3% market share; under real competition it would take most of the rest. These conditions have caused an extraordinary divergence between Japan’s and Germany’s electricity outcomes.

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In short, German policy gave renew­ables fair access to the grid, promoted competition, weakened monopolies, and helped citizens and communities own half of renewable capacity. In 2013, Germany’s nuclear generation reached a 30-year low while renewable generation, 56% greater, set a new record, reaching an average of 27% of domestic use in the first quarter of 2014 and a brief peak of 74% on 11 May.

Japan has 5% more land, 68% more people, 74% more GDP, and far more sun and wind than Germany, but through February 2014 had added only about one-fifth as much solar power as Germany, and almost no windpower. These produced just 0.97% of Japan’s 2012 electricity—one-third India’s share, or #29 worldwide—and 1.5% in 2013. Of the roughly 41 billion watts (95% solar) in Japan’s order pipeline, much remains lawfully stalled by utility red tape and intransigence.

More than the sacred sun on Japan’s flag, its leaders appear to worship old policies that retard wide use of the energy sources now taking over the global market. Since 2008, half the world’s added electric generating capacity has been renewable. Non-hydroelectric renewables, chiefly wind and solar, got a quarter-trillion dollars of private investment and added over 80 billion watts in each of the past three years. Three of the world’s top four economies—China, Japan, and Germany, as well as India—now produce more electricity from non-hydro renewables than from nuclear power. Japan is on that list only because its nuclear production is roughly zero; it remains the rich nations’ renewable laggard. Perhaps the unexpected May 2014 court decision that prohibited restart of the Oi reactors as unsafe, and for the first time prioritized public safety over utility profits, may signal an emergent change beyond the cosmetic reforms offered by the executive and legislative branches—2016 “deregulation” in name only.

Read more at How Opposite Energy Policies Turned The Fukushima Disaster Into A Loss For Japan And A Win For Germany

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