With an over-reliance on fossil fuels, it seems that we’ve been a little too complacent in our efforts to find and develop green, sustainable energy.
With renewable energy resources like solar panels and wind turbines having reached a remarkable level of sophistication in the last ten or so years, it seems unfortunate that these achievements haven’t been more widely acknowledged in the media.
Despite these accomplishments going largely unnoticed, over the past fifty years environmental movements have largely succeeded in influencing the way in which we view and interact with the environment. With our attitudes to the environment slowly but surely changing, we’re now better placed to recognise our responsibility towards looking after the planet for future generations.
A new report from Greenpeace calls for the complete closure of all Japanese nuclear power plants by 2012. The report was released at the same time as the new Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, was making his first policy speech to parliament calling for the restart of all reactors that are currently offline due to routine safety checks and maintenance.
According to the Greenpeace report, the Advanced Energy Revolution — Sustainable Energy Outlook for Japan, as of August 2011 only 12 of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors were actually operational. This led the report’s lead author Sven Teske to conclude that Japan seems to have been able to get by with only limited nuclear power use this summer and that with greater emphasis on energy savings and enhanced energy efficiencies, the country could close down all nuclear plants next year.
On Our World 2.0, we have looked at other scenarios for the phasing out of nuclear power in Japan, with one example being that developed by the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP) (see related articles in the column to the right). These tend to suggest a gradual phasing out so that Japan is 100% renewable by 2050. The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) Japan has developed an almost identical scenario.
Greenpeace, however, is suggesting something far more radical and Teske argues that the goal is to turn the “nuclear catastrophe into a renewable opportunity”. He makes it very clear that Greenpeace has always been anti-nuclear and sees no future in this source of energy.
The Nuclear Disaster that Changed the World
After the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011 (the biggest since Chernobyl in 1986) which saw the release of radioactive isotopes into the Pacific Ocean, and trace amounts of radiation registered in various American and Canadian states, efforts to move towards safer, more sustainable energy production methods have begun to take on a new sense of urgency.
Early proponents of photovoltaic technology (the science behind converting solar radiation into electrical power), Japan has become one of the world’s leading producers of photovoltaic (PV) energy, and has looked particularly at solar panel systems and other alternative energy methods that include new ways to best exploit wave and wind power.
With clear-cut solar PV targets the Japanese government aim to have 10% of all their domestic primary energy produced by solar panels by 2050, so as well as being one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of solar panels, Japan also benefits from having realistic goals set in place early on – it does seem a shame, however, that it took an energy disaster like Fukushima to bring about this more serious consideration of solar and other renewable forms of energy. Unfortunately in the UK our solar energy outlook has been less receptive to these world events – though there are people out there looking to change that.
Working in the photovoltaic technology field for a number of years now, Solar Direct Savings are a consultancy and solar panel installation company who have been changing the attitudes of people across the UK, providing clear and concise advice about the financial benefits of solar panels, and promoting the various government green initiatives. Government incentives or not, Solar Direct Savings are helping to bring about a new autonomy in power production and, through their solar panels, are allowing people to take control of their energy consumption and reduce their carbon footprint.