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Japan Will Fail to Meet GHG Pledge

The Japanese government is debating whether to reduce nuclear energy supply to zero %, 15%, or 20-25% of the power generation mixby 2030.The country’s desire to eliminate nuclear comes after the Fukushima disaster last year, and would necessitate the utilization of fossil fuels to plug the gap whilst renewables are developed.

This would mean that Japan would fail to meet a target to cut greenhouse gases 25% set over ten years ago. This failure to meet the target, pledged in 1990, would cost Japan the equivalent of $628 billion to build a power grid around renewable energy. This decision to phase out nuclear would be Japan’s first post-Fukushima energy policy, and was proposed by the governments own advisory body, and is fully supported by the general public.

However, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda failed to confirm the new policy in a recent press conference, leading to continued speculation about what role nuclear power will play in the upcoming general election.

Should the Japanese adopt the policy, nuclear power would be phased out over the next two decades. That would require more use of fossil fuels as wind and solar plants are built, meaning Japan won’t meet the GHG pledge.

“There is no doubt the government will scrap the 25% target,” Keigo Akimoto at the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth wrote in an e-mail response to questions.

Without nuclear, Japan would have to buy 320 million tons of overseas emission credits a year to meet the target, “and amid higher sales taxes and electricity tariffs, there is no way the Japanese public would accept such a massive purchase,” the researcher said.

Under the zero nuclear option, Japan would need to invest 43.6 trillion yen ($548 billion) on solar, wind and other types of renewable energy and 5.2 trillion yen on power grids, according to the government. At least 26.1 trillion yen in spending on renewables would be needed even if the world’s third-largest economy stays with nuclear power.

Meeting the target under zero nuclear would put solar panels on 12 million homes or about 44 percent of all of the country’s detached houses, according to the government. About 900,000 residences in Japan have solar panels.

Similarly, wind power capacity would increase nearly 20 times to 47.6 GW, taking up 4,755 square kilometers (1,836 square miles) of land and marine areas, or about six times the size of New York City’s land area.

Despite these hefty, and possibly unrealistic targets the elimination of nuclear is a publically popular choice. Since Yoshihiko Noda has faced declining ratings in Japan, the fate of nuclear looks set to be a key vote winner, leading to speculation that this is why the government are holding out on a decision.

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