Why Japan's Electricity Crisis Matters

June 14, 2012 - 12:00pm
Wash. DC Office
Seminar Host/Point of Contact: 

The Japanese electricity shortage has implications for the United States (and the world) at many different levels.  From an energy perspective, Japan is (at least temporarily) abandoning nuclear power--30% of its generating capacity-- and replacing it with conservation and still-to-be-determined alternative sources. No country has faced such a rapid transition, so Japan's successes and failures will be a lesson to others contemplating an exit from nuclear (or perhaps even coal). The Japanese grid is curiously unprepared for decentralized and renewable sources, thus adding another level of complexity to a transition. In the short run, Japan has switched to older oil and gas-fired power plants, leading to a jump in oil and LNG imports and putting pressure on international oil prices.   Conservation must also help balance the grid in the short term. The extent of required savings varies with region but nearly all regions will have inadequate capacity during the summer and winter peaks. National conservation policies have been relatively slow to form owing to internal debates and uncertainties regarding the extent of shortages required.  Major manufacturers have informed the government that power restrictions or blackouts will force them to move offshore. Blackouts will immobilize Japan's railway and subway systems, too. This is already the second summer of power shortages for Tokyo, which demonstrated that it could cut demand 15%.  The conservation strategies will soon be felt globally.  Sales of LEDs skyrocketed and have advanced the market faster than expected.  New textiles and clothing styles to keep cool at higher indoor temperatures were quickly developed and will soon appear here.  PV packages are also receiving a boost, with technical benefits likely to cross the Pacific soon.   A political deadlock prevents Japan from committing to either a supply-side or demand-side solution.  The central government and establishment believe that nuclear power is the only possible option while much of the public has lost faith in the utilities and the institutions that regulate them.  Many of the same trends are visible in the United States.   A ReadyTalk Webinar will be offered during this event to allow remote participants to phone in to listen while viewing the presentation via the Web. Access information: Audio: (866) 740-1260 Website: http://www.readytalk.com Access code (for both audio and Web): 488-2250

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