Phasing out nuclear power in Japan will cost the country the equivalent of $622 billion to build a power grid around renewable energy and means it will fail to meet a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
That’s an estimate from the government as it mulls going ahead with a recommendation made today by its own advisory body to eliminate use of nuclear power — an option also favored by the public — in its first post-Fukushima energy policy.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has called a press conference tomorrow evening in Tokyo when he may follow the advice of the ruling party advisory board and phase out nuclear plants 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 a pledge to cut greenhouse gases 25 percent over the three decades starting in 1990.
“There is no doubt the government will scrap the 25 percent 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.
Meantime, companies from mobile phone operator Softbank Corp. to convenience store chain Lawson Inc. are entering renewable energy as polls and public hearings show a majority of citizens want an exit from nuclear despite the cost. The government is debating to reduce nuclear energy supply to zero percent, 15 percent, or 20-25 percent by 2030.
“No matter which option is selected, renewable energy must be increased in Japan at full speed,” Japan’s second-richest man, Softbank Chairman Masayoshi Son said at an Aug. 29 news conference to announce a plan to build the country’s biggest solar plant.
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.