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Ever since Japan shut down its nuclear power plants, of which the vast majority still remain shut down, it has had to replace missing electricity generation from nuke plants with increased capacity from burning fossil fuels.  It has also managed to greatly reduce power use through increases in efficiency, but Japan's perpetual power problem as a resource-poor nation persists.

The big news today is that Japan is finally initiating a long-overdue strategy to become more energy independent by massively boosting electricity production from renewables.

Japan plans to kick-start the production of electricity from renewables by instituting a generous, degressive feed-in-tariff that mirrors the system Germany used to implement its renewable energy revolution.  Early adopters will see generous reimbursements for power generation from renewables and, as economies of scale reduce costs, the F.I.T. rates will be lowered to reflect reductions in cost.

The most immediate effect of these generous feed-in-tariff rates will be a boom in renewable energy projects:

The FiT requires utilities to pay $0.53 cents per kilowatt-hour for 20 years for solar, triple that of China's and almost double that of Germany.

When Germany's latest subsidy cut comes into force, it will be reduced to $0.17-$0.26, depending on size.

Many solar and wind projects have been on hold waiting for this announcement, which is completely in line with prices projected months ago.

"The very attractive rate reflects the government's intention to set up many solar power stations very quickly," Mina Sekiguchi, associate partner and head of energy and infrastructure at KPMG in Japan, told Bloomberg.

"We hear every day a new announcement of a megawatt-scale project," Izumi Kaizuka, a solar industry analyst at RTS Corp., told Bloomberg.

A more long-term, yet no less important, effect will be a huge boost in renewables technology and innovation.  Japan has proven over and over again just how technologically innovative it can be when it puts its mind to it, after all.  This Japanese focus on renewables technology development will boost global prospects for the rapid development of inexpensive, district-level battery storage systems and will likely lead to the implementation of cutting-edge innovations such as floating wind turbines:

A feed-in tariff program due to start in July that guarantees above market rates for clean energy including solar, wind and geothermal could boost the development of wind energy, analysts say.

Land-based wind energy development is limited by Japan's mountains, making offshore developments more viable. The depths of its oceans creates a bigger potential for floating turbine technology, still in its infancy and expensive compared with the more conventional method of deploying fixed versions of the machines.

On one hand it is sad that nuclear catastrophe had to befall Japan in order to wake the nation from dreaming the illusionary dream of energy independence via nuclear fission.  On the other hand, it is good to see Japan finally choosing the path of intelligent, long-term thinking on energy production matters and joining other innovative countries like Germany in a huge push for energy independence and a healthy environment by massively implementing renewable energy technologies.

The Japanese will see benefits from this in the form of strong economic growth in the renewable energy sector, reductions in their use of fossil fuels, and an increase in their energy independence, especially in the mid- to long-term.

The rest of the world will see benefits from this in the form of greater global economies of scale in renewable tech, which will lead to reduced costs and accelerated development of advanced renewable energy technologies.

This decision by Japan is a win-win for us all, and we should thank Japan for finally charting a wise course that is good for the entire planet.

Originally posted to Lawrence on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 04:58 AM PDT.

Also republished by Kosowatt, SciTech, In Support of Labor and Unions, and Community Spotlight.

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