Since the tragic and ongoing nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant began, Japan has been plunged into an intense energy policy debate. Currently, the main focus is on the struggle about whether or not to restart two nuclear reactors at the Ōi Nuclear Power Plant, which has a combined capacity of 2.2 GW of electric power.
Those forces in favor of a nuclear comeback proclaim that there would be no alternative to a restart. According to them, reactivating two nuclear reactors is the only way to ensure the stability of the power grid in the Kansai region, Japan’s second-largest industrial area.
In order to convince the public, industry leaders and the government of this so-called existential necessity, the so-called “nuclear village” bombards the discussion with doomsday scenarios about how dangerous blackouts are – how they risk lives and the economy — as well as trying to reestablish the perception that nuclear power would be the cheapest form of electricity generation.
Considering that the so-called “nuclear village” of Japan finds itself in the unfamiliar situation of an uphill battle to regain trust and favorable public opinion, it is trying everything it can to change the odds in its favor once again.
Weapons of Disinformation
The most common item in this process of manipulating the public discussion in favor of a vested interest has been the publishing of studies and reports by private “scientific” institutes. These papers by so-called “energy experts” are disguised as objective scientific assessments of the current situation and future developments.
Studies and other papers published by these institutes might seem like quality work at first, but people with some background knowledge soon notice irritating errors and a strong bias in a certain direction. The so-called “energy experts” who write these papers are utilizing rather unsound methods of arranging selectively collected data and quotes from other studies (some of which were conducted in the same way) in order to reach a pre-determined conclusion.
I call these kinds of studies weapons of disinformation because their sole purpose is to convince the public and industrial and political leaders who might not have enough subject knowledge to notice the bias.
Example from Japan
While doing research on the energy debate in Japan, I stumbled upon a recent report by the “Institute of Energy and Economics, Japan.” The report is titled “Summary and Evaluation of Cost Calculation for Nuclear Power Generation by the “Cost Estimation and Review Committee” and was authored by Matsuo Yuhji, an economist and nuclear energy “expert” at the IEEJ. In it, he comments on the reevaluation of the cost of nuclear power and other forms of power generation by the Japanese government in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. At the end, he comes to the “surprising” conclusion that nuclear power is still the cheapest form of power generation in Japan at 7.3 – 8.9 Yen/kWh. ($0.092–0.112 | €0.073–0.089 Cent)
As a Sidenote: Isn’t it interessting how nuclear power is always the cheapest form of energy but the cost per kWh is so different around the world? In Germany, it’s supposed to be 1-4 ct / kWh. Mhh…
At the end of the report, Matsuo Yuhji critically comments on the estimated development of generation costs from solar energy given by the Japanese government. It should be noted that even the government estimates of current and future solar energy costs are very outdated and “conservative.” In this light, it’s remarkable how the “energy experts” of the IEEJ even go out on a limb to question those highly conservative projections.
“(6) The Cost of Renewable Energy
The salient feature of solar and wind power generation in this study is that they incorporate the “possibility” of a significant reduction in costs by 2030. For example, for residential solar power generation, the current construction unit costs of 480-550 thousend yen / kW will be reduced to 189 thousend yen/kW, at least, by 2030 based on the “Paradigm shift scenario.” This, in turn, is expected to reduce the cost of power generation down to 9.9 yen /kWh, which is on par with nuclear and thermal power generation.” – IEEJ: May 2012
The author goes on to point out that these “estimates” of future costs of solar energy are based on a study by Greenpeace and the European Photovoltaic Industry Assosciation. According to him, such a cost decrease due to increased production capacity seems unlikely because of contradicting IEA estimates.
Living Under a Rock?
Everybody who reads CleanTechnica from time to time knows that the numbers and estimates given by both the Japanese government and the criticism by the IEEJ “expert” are shockingly overstating the present cost of solar energy.
It doesn’t even take any scientific or journalistic effort to show that the IEEJ report is ignorant of the reality at best and possibly purposely dishonest at worst.
What ever it might be, it certainly is a showcase of “scientific” incompetence, since the estimates of the future cost of photovoltaic systems are basically a look into the past. The installation cost for rooftop solar energy in Germany has already fallen to 1776€ per kW or 178 thousand Yen per kW during the first quarter of 2012.
According to a recent report by the Fraunhofer Institut of Solar Energy Systems (ISE), the current power generation cost of small residential solar systems in Germany is at 14-20 Yen / €ct per kWh. Considering that Japan has solar conditions similar to Southern France or Spain, this puts the possible current generation costs of small solar systems in Japan at 10-14 Yen /€ct per kWh.
While it is of course a precondition to mobilize the domestic market for renewable energy technologies in order to achieve the same low prices as in Germany, there can be no doubt nor a mere “possibility” that similar low prices are possible in Japan. What’s possible in Germany is certainly possible in Japan, especially since Japanese solar modules are also being sold at price-point in Germany.
Last time I checked, it’s 2012 and not 2030 in Germany, so why is the IEEJ and apparently even the Japanese government living more than a decade in the past when it comes to recognizing today’s potential for renewable energy technologies?