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The Green Path to a Safe, Natural Energy Future

An Open Letter to the Japanese People
July 19, 2011 Dear friends in Japan, We have been emotionally shocked by the earthquakes and tsunami that have hit your country. Our hearts reach out to you. We live across the ocean on Canada’s west coast, and our cherry blossoms bloom at the same time that yours do. My personal work is devoted to creating a vision of a more sustainable world, and doing what I can to make it happen. I dream of a green economy in which everyone will be able to live and work in harmony with nature, benefiting from solar panels, electric cars, safe bicycle lanes, high speed trains and sociable village communities, enjoying lives that are rich in fulfillment and meaning. You face a very immediate energy crisis, with so much nuclear and fossil fuelled electrical capacity out of action because of the disasters. Some people say nuclear power is still safe, and that you should build more new reactors. Others say you must tackle your energy crisis by importing more coal, oil and gas, and burning more fossil fuels. I believe that both routes will bring disaster. I have never been a fan of nuclear power. I worry about its dangers, its very high financial cost 1, and the nuclear wastes that will remain radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. The private sector never invests in nuclear power unless it is heavily subsidized by the government, and when there is a disaster, most of the cost is carried by the public, not by the nuclear industry. Meanwhile, the world’s climate scientists are warning us that if we continue to burn fossil fuels, Earth’s temperature could rise by as much as 4° to 6°C by the end of the century. These are very alarming numbers, because geology tells us that the last time the world was 3°C warmer, the sea level was 25 metres higher. The Danger of Sea Level Rise Our oceans and atmosphere are already warming. Ice is melting all over the world. In 1996, the Environment Agency of Japan released data which showed that if the sea-level around Japan rose by just one metre, 15 million people would have to move, and assets worth 378 trillion yen ($4.5 trillion) on 9,000 square kilometres would be affected.2 The latest scientific report suggests that the sea-level could rise by up to 1.6 metres by the end of this century.3

Open Letter to Japanese People


earth and water. because it would speed up global warming. 8% from oil. 84% of Japan’s primary energy supply is imported. so a planned nuclear expansion will do nothing to meet your immediate power crisis. and make the world a more dangerous place. The rocks beneath us will not stop being geothermally hot. 25% from coal. It can come direct from Nature from the sun. and every yen that is spent to buy them will leave the Japanese economy. moon and sun that causes the rain to fall and the tides to change will not stop. instead of leaving the country for Saudi Arabia. To invest in old technologies that require more imported fossil fuels at an ever-increasing cost will impose an enormous cost on your next generations.4 30% was generated by nuclear power. A nuclear reactor must always be cooled. when Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced that the government was scrapping the plan. and it was only the bad design of the Fukushima reactors that caused their failure. many other TEPCO and Tohuku power plants damaged. and other fossil fuel and uranium exporters. that will never run out or disappear. and only 1% from solar. Our energy does not need to come from fossil fuels or nuclear power. So many people have lost their lives. But to contemplate a tsunami on top of a 25 metre sea-level rise is unthinkable. and the problems of the radioactive wastes will remain. investments and jobs that would occur. So many people are still traumatized by the dark deadly waters. Japan’s electrical utilities were planning to greatly increase your dependence on nuclear power. oil and coal. requiring huge government subsidies. 9% from hydropower. for we can’t stop tectonic plates from moving or the ocean from responding. But this too would be a disaster. We are surrounded by safe. If Japan could demonstrate that a large developed nation could operate on 100% renewable electricity. Until May 10th. Is 100% Renewable Electricity Possible for Japan? Could Japan could meet all her energy needs by following a green path to a safe. The gravitational pull of the earth. including the uranium for the nuclear reactors. Others say Japan must burn more fossil fuels to make electricity. I have never visited your country. which is why every Japanese reactor is by the sea. wind and geothermal power. and the money spent on energy would stay within Japan’s economy. Japan used 858 TWh (terawatt-hours) of electricity. Could 100% of Japan’s electricity come from renewables. gas and oil are bound to rise. Russia. In 2009. but I have been thinking a lot about your country’s energy crisis. New nuclear reactors will be hugely expensive. The sun will continue to send us energy for five billion years. renewable energy given to us freely by Nature. Nuclear reactors also take at least ten years to build. how will you meet your future electricity needs? Some people say nuclear power is still safe. coal or gas? Rapid change happens all the time. and the accompanying sea level rise. natural energy future? To explore this question. So many people are grieving. It is only 133 years since electricity was first used in Japan. wind. The wind will not stop blowing. with no need for imported uranium. we have to look at some numbers. without any sea-level rise. Japan’s economy would benefit greatly from the innovation. With four of your six Fukushima nuclear reactors dead. 26% came from burning gas.Earthquakes and tsunamis will always happen. and import more natural gas. the global impact would be enormous. when we know the death and destruction that was caused by this tsunami. The prices of coal. and 27 nuclear power plants closed down. So what does the challenge look like when we wrestle it to the ground? Open Letter to Japanese People 2 . Canada. before it becomes a red giant. where future tsunamis and sea-level rise will always threaten them.

is already becoming very expensive. people all over Japan are making an extra effort to save energy because of the current energy crisis. The government hopes to increase this to 53.000 TWh. Solar Energy: 72 . If the radioactive zone was turned into a giant solar farm. which made from oil. as more buses become electric and as more buildings are heated with electrical heat pumps that extract heat from the air. this area alone could produce 40 TWh a year. producing 56 TWh.As Japan’s drivers change to electric vehicles. saving 170 TWh a year.000 MW. parking lots and alongside railways. Pal Town Neighbourhood. stretching 30 kilometres from the damaged reactors. at 3664 MW. The Goal: 1. but the number of solar installations is still quite small. ground or water. In 2001. The Fukushima exclusion zone. up to 300 TWh could be generated. totaling 200. based on different assumptions. The numbers vary.8 Open Letter to Japanese People 3 . but the current policy is very flat. this would produce 210 TWh a year.300 TWh/year Japan is a world leader in the use of solar energy.000 MW by 2030. Already. all roads must be paved. and asphalt. and this is still a relatively small amount.000 TWh a year Could Japan generate 1.8 TWh a year6. since the sun shines on most roads. near Tokyo Japan has 54 million housing units. If 50 million homes each had a 4 kW PV system on its roof.5 Efficiency: 170 .429 TWh/year If there was a huge drive for greater energy conservation and energy efficiency. the Energy Rich Japan report suggests 118 to 295 TWh a year. Ota. the demand for electricity will rise by perhaps 15%. which concluded that overall demand could be reduced by 50% below the current demand (858 TWh). would be a huge achievement. With solar installations also on commercial rooftops. The numbers that I have used below come from a variety of sources.105 TWh a year. building facades. There is even research being done into the possibility of repaving roads with solar cells.000 hectares). producing 3. the amount of electricity needed could be reduced. increasing the electricity needed to 1.7 The Ministry of Environment’s report that Japan has solar energy potential in the range of 72 . Greenpeace International and Greenpeace Japan published an important report titled Energy Rich Japan. a number supported by the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies in Tokyo. including a 2010 study by Japan’s Ministry of Environment. covers 1400 square kilometres (140. Even a 20% reduction.000 TWh of electricity a year using renewable sources only? The research that I have read tells me the answer is yes.

who is CEO of the Carbon War Room. says that by 2012.9 The Ministry of Environment report (April 2011) reports “extremely large” wind energy potential.“But solar is too expensive!” you might respond. producing around 5 TWh a year. clusters of turbines could be 20 kilometres apart.200 GW of off-shore potential. and 2.000 MW. your government’s policies have been slow.5. and fishing could continue between the turbines.000 TWh a year. It does not swing more than 3 degrees away from the vertical. because here too. Since 2000. Solar energy also matches Japan’s peak power demand. The price of solar PV is falling steadily as the demand increases.000 TWh/year Japan has been slow to develop its wind power potential. Most ocean turbines sit on the ocean bottom. which limits their use to shallow waters.12 Open Letter to Japanese People 4 . since Japan is surrounded by ocean.304 MW of wind energy.and the price has fallen by 50% in the last 4 years.a thousandfold increase .11 Kamisu Wind Farm.10 A 2009 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimated 570 TWh from land-based turbines. The hope in the solar industry is that solar PV will soon reach “grid parity” at a price of 12 Yen (15 cents) kWh ($2 per watt). the installed price could fall to as low as $2. Kanto Region. there was 2. and can withstand the strongest typhoon. called Hywind.13 per watt. but Norway’s Statoil Hydro is pioneering a deep-water floating wind turbine. the average installed price in 2010 was $5. supporting marine life. which rises by 50% during the hot summer months of July and August when the air conditioners are switched on. The government’s goal for 2030 is 20. the global market for solar PV has grown from 170 MW to 170 GW . In 2010. Wind Energy: 570 . any investment in solar PV is very smart. The solar expert Jigar Shah. producing 52 TWh. producing up to 5. with 280 GW of land-based wind potential and 1. Each turbine on the ocean floor would create new marine habitat.700 TWh from off-shore turbines. In the US.500 km of Japan’s eastern coastline. Since Japanese households pay 20 Yen/kWh for electricity. Spread along the 2. Wind Power Ibaraki Offshore wind is an exciting area.60 per watt.

Japan has built 20 geothermal power plants with 540 MW of capacity.500 TWh/Year Japan is one of the world’s most tectonically active areas. Hiroki Sugino and Toshihiro Akeno estimate that Japan has an estimated geothermal potential of 23. So far. which could produce 155 TWh a year. there is huge potential to do more. the heat is closer to the surface. like wind or solar.330 MW could be produced from onsen. where the clusters were located is something that would need much discussion. this much capacity could produce over 500 TWh of electricity a year. The number of birds killed by wind turbines is very small . which produce 3 TWh of electricity a year. Dr. In their 2010 Country Update for Japan 14. you can read stories about how wind turbines kill birds. of Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. Open Letter to Japanese People 5 . or make a terrible noise.Horns Rev ocean wind farm.13 With the best policies. Geothermal Energy: 98 .500 MW. and in an area such as Japan. Hirofumi Muraoka. None of this is true. The rocks several kilometres underground are hot. and many onsen (hot springs). but every “NO” to renewable energy is a “YES” to more nuclear power and more fossil fuels that will speed up global warming and cause the sea level to rise. Denmark With both land-based and ocean turbines. and high rise buildings. on the other hand.many times less than the birds killed by cats. for a total of 80.000 onsen and nearly 200 volcanoes. cars. with 28. suggests that a further 49.000 MW is possible when you drill 3 to 4 km underground. and that an additional 8. This is the price of a “NO”. The Ministry of Environment report. suggests figures ranging from 30 to 92 TWh.830 MW.15 Since geothermal energy is not intermittent. In the media. It is easy to say “NO” to new ideas.

Kokonoe Town. in which water is diverted from a flow of water and then returned after the energy in the water’s flow has been gathered. Combined with Japan’s existing hydropower. which causes rain and snow to fall from the sky.000 MW of hydropower. South Korea is building 90 MW tidal power plant at we have just seen so tragically .70 TWh/year The power of the ocean is enormous .20 One estimate suggests that Japan’s ocean energy may be able to produce around 70 TWh a year. Sachio Ehara 90% of the best locations for geothermal energy are in your national parks. This would require many small “run of river” diversion projects. Oita Prefecture Photo: Prof. allowing us to generate electricity from hydropower. Japan has a huge coastline. and China has built 8 tidal power stations with a total capacity of 6 MW.Hatchobaru Geothermal Power Plant. Your parks cover 20. it could produce 140 TWh of electricity a year.000 MW was possible. Eiji Yamamoto of Japan’s New Energy Foundation showed that a further 12.5 kw turbines in the Akashi Strait19 in the Seto Inland Sea. which produces 92 TWh of electricity a year. or 1/1000 th of Japan’s parks area. Japan has 22. so 500 TWh of geothermal production would occupy 20 square kilometres of land. so there would need to be a debate about what is acceptable.but it can also be used to generate energy from the tides and waves. of which 6% are in Special Protection zones.000 square kilometres.21 Open Letter to Japanese People 6 .18 The Ministry of Environment’s report suggests 42 to 80 TWh. or 14% of your land area. while admitting that it’s numbers may be on the conservative side.16 Hydro Power: 79-140 TWh/year Nature has also given us gravity. Tidal and Wave Power: 20 . and Nova Energy has installed 20. In a 2007 presentation 17. which is a good location for development due to its many narrow island passages. A typical geothermal facility uses 400 square meters per GWh of electricity. which increase tidal velocity.

and heat? This too comes mostly from fossil fuels that Japan imports as oil. the American energy specialist who has become a global leader in promoting the Feed-In Tariff as the best way to promote the rapid acceleration of renewable energy.South Korea’s 1 MW Jindo Uldolmok tidal power plant Can It Be Done? The goal for electricity is 1000 TWh a year. Could all of Japan’s transportation needs be met with electric and hybrid electric vehicles. and the price at the pump may reach 200 yen per litre. has estimated that if Japan were to follow Germany’s lead on renewable energy. it could generate 180 TWh of new renewable electricity within ten years. Paul Gipe. and more telecommuting and telemeetings? Toyota and Honda have led the world with their hybrid vehicles. and many other innovations. electric railways for freight and passengers. What about the energy needed for transport. but the money will remain within Japan. There are many important questions which must be researched. But this is only electricity. using geothermal and hydro power as firm energy to balance the intermittent solar. six times more energy that the six damaged reactors at Fukushima produced before the tsunami. The low estimates show that Japan could produce almost 100% of its electricity from renewables. electric city buses. chief economist at the International Energy Agency. comprehensive Feed-In Tariff. wind. creating room for choice. tidal and wave energy. it must accept the inevitability that the world’s supply of affordable oil will soon disappear. said that oil may have already peaked in 200623. You would also need new transmission lines. In April 2011. As Japan looks to the future. safe routes for cycling. The global price of oil may soon pass $150 a barrel. gas. and coal for industrial heat. the high estimates provide 600% more electricity than is needed. Efficiency Solar PV Wind Geothermal Hydro Tidal and Wave Per year… Low 200 72 570 30 79 20 971 High 500 300 5000 500 140 70 6510 The investments needed will be large. using a robust. and Open Letter to Japanese People 7 . Fatih Birol. electric bicycles. and be financed through utility bill payments.22 The different kinds of energy would need to be integrated.

and power. and for many years. As well as producing pollution and radioactive wastes and increasing global warming. This is a global problem that we all face . the investment happens in Japan. Japan has been a global technological leader. Open Letter to Japanese People 8 .Mitsubishi with its i-MiEV .and we need your help. ships and airplanes run on biofuels made from algae? How much bioenergy could Japan produce? Could Japan’s buildings be heated using electrically powered heat pumps. on the other hand. When you use renewable energy. new kinds of electric batteries. the jobs are created in Japan. the innovation happens in Japan.many i-MiEVs were used in the region around Sendai after the earthquake when gasoline was not available. since they are scarce resources in a very competitive world. district heating. and solar thermal heating for space and water? Could Japan’s industry and manufacturing operate with high temperature heat from hydrogen or biofuel? There is so much innovation happening in the world. We can not continue on our current path. Is Renewable Energy A Sensible Path? When you consider the many different factors related to energy which will impact Japan’s future economy (see below). it seems clear to me that this would be a highly sensible approach. and the export of new clean energy technologies flows from Japan. the money spent on energy remains in Japan. we must change . fuel. the price of the imported fuels is guaranteed to rise. As a world. and new super-efficient appliances and machines. We need your skill and expertise to develop new kinds of renewable heat. and they performed admirably.24 Toyota EV for 2012 and electric charging station A i-MiEV at work near Sendai Could your is not just Japan’s problem. biomass heat and power. Increased reliance on nuclear power or fossil fuels makes very little sense.

celebrating the success of powering the whole country with renewable energy.” Every crisis brings both danger and the need for resolute action. a green energy revolution is happening. The planned launch was cancelled. Here’s how the closing words of the video have been translated: On that day. There is a video that was made to celebrate the launch of the Kyushu Shinkansen high speed rail line. China and Germany are each investing $25 to $30 billion a year in renewable energy. You smiled for us. and said that he would set up an advisory committee promoting renewable energy. And these are the closing words: On that day.. I imagine the same kind of celebration each time Japan reaches a new goal: 10% renewable energy . I imagine a new video. Japan will become fun. an energy and finance specialist at Rikko University. and right in its wake.Around the world. You came together as one for us. 5.30% renewable energy. Japan is linked together. if you were to say with confidence “We will embrace this challenge”. Japan does not make the list. Softbank’s Chief Executive. Thank you. 11. which connects Hakata to Kagoshima. 3. From now. 8. You smiled for can see it on YouTube. and that does not increase the risk of nuclear disaster or global warming. This is exactly the kind of thinking that is needed. we will reach 100%. Japan is now powered by 30% renewable energy. The video was made on March 11th. pledged a billion yen ($12 million) to establish a renewable energy foundation. and then the earthquake happened. and seek a green path into the future . does not make you vulnerable to the increasing cost of imported power. From now. 7. You came together as one for us. Open Letter to Japanese People 9 . But it is amazing . you waved at us. 13. Soon. 12. to seek their advice. 4. from top to bottom. and will protect you against the looming energy crisis that will be result from the peak oil. Masayoshi Son. Andrew DeWit. 6. will be of the utmost importance in shaping the future.a path that is friendly with nature. you waved at us. and the video was never broadcast. Thank you. Impact on Japan’s Future Economy Requires imported fuel Danger of fuel supply running scarce Creates local pollution Causes global warming Very vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis Creates long-term dangerous wastes Increasing cost over time Exports yen from Japan’s economy Retains yen within Japan’s economy Falling costs over time Generates many new jobs in Japan Generates technological innovation in Japan Resilience against natural disaster Fossil Fuels YES YES YES YES NO NO YES YES NO NO NO NO NO Nuclear YES YES YES NO YES YES YES YES NO NO NO NO NO Renewables NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO YES YES YES YES YES Soon after the earthquake and tsunami. said in his March 2011 article The Earthquake in Japanese Energy Policy. Imagine.. Thank you.25 1. Thank you. but with its current policies. 9. Thank you. He expressed the desire to meet with 100 of the world’s top leaders in renewable energy. “policy choices made now. Thank you. seeking the installation of 30 GW of new renewable energy within six years. I urge you to use this terrible disaster that you have suffered and the energy crisis that it has caused to change direction. 10. Japan will become fun. 2. in the midst of this crisis.20% renewable energy . From now. from top to bottom. with more money being invested in renewables ($150 billion in 2009) than in new fossil fuel production.

energyrichjapan. New wind energy 30%. Ministry of January 5. and www. Ministry of Environment.wimp. and produces 120 GWh a year. Climate Change Policy Earth Policy Institute. Climate Progress. and author of the award-winning book The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming (New Society Publishers.earthpolicy. Guy Dauncey is President of the BC Sustainable Energy The Earthquake in Japanese Energy Policy. 1996. 11 Global potential for wind-generated electricity by Xi Lua. CGER.html Phasing our nuclear in 9 Existing wind energy .html 3 Scientific America. See www. 140.earthfuture. Indonesia.full.fepc. www. http://bdig. The Asia Pacific Journal Vol 9.gdrc. Canada. Data Book on Sea-Level 13 Assumes a 75% capacity factor 14 Proceedings World Geothermal Congress 2010 Bali. www. May 3. by Andrew DeWit.php?serial=411&hou_id=1576 5 Study of Potential for the Introduction of Renewable Energy. Renewable Japan Status Report 2010: policy. 2009).pnas.pdf Study of Potential for the Introduction of Renewable 2 Effect of Sea-level Rise on Japan. 2011.env.pdf 12 See www. and www.solarroadways. by Greenpeace International and Greenpeace Japan. Off-shore wind 40%. 10 New land-based wind 30%.25% capacity Sources: Energy Rich Japan. Climate Change Policy Division. 1 hectare of solar PV produces 0. www. 6 This assumes a 12% capacity factor .750 GWh or 43 TWh/yr. Time to Rethink Japan’s Energy Policy. Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies. Climate Change Policy Division. On this basis. 67-68. Worldwatch Institute. 2001. Ministry of Environment. Off-shore wind 40%. the 80 MW Sarnia Solar Project occupies 384 hectares.With care and Japan’s Geothermal Energy: http://dpescatore.theclimatechallenge.iie. 2011. 7 In Issue 13 No 1. 2009. 2011 4 Study of Potential for the Introduction of Renewable Energy.pdf 15 Personal email from Matt Roney. April 2011. Environment Agency of Japan. http://www.go.climateprogress. April 2011. by Dave Elliot (UK Open University).000 hectares = 43. Michael B. 8 See author of Time to Rethink Japan’s Energy Policy Open Letter to Japanese People 10 .312 GWh/yr. by Matt Roney. April 2011. Tokyo: Center for Global Environmental Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies: http://www.html Renewable Energy and Social Innovation in Japan. March 28 2011 Guy Dauncey 1 The staggering cost of new nuclear power. Japan.that solar PV will produce power on average for 12% of the time. McElroya and Juha Kiviluomac Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan: www. by Joe Romm. 25-29 April 2010. Japan. 21 30 to 50 GW.html 23 See www.New York Times. Assume 40 GW. by Paul 20 See www. http://www. by John Lund.ren21.pdf 18 65% capacity factor 19 See Open Letter to Japanese People 11 .html 25 Renewables 2010 Global Status Report.windworks. Development and Utilization of Geothermal 30% capacity factor 22 What Feed-in Tariffs could do for Japan’s Electricity Shortage. Oregon Institute of 24 After Disaster Hit May 6 2011. Electric Cars Stepped Up . http://www.or.nova-ene.pdf 17 Status of Hydropower in Japan www.nef.