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2021 | Book

New Challenges and Solutions for Renewable Energy

Japan, East Asia and Northern Europe


About this book

This book identifies second stage challenges and opportunities for expanding renewable energy into a mainstay of electricity generation that can replace fossil fuels and nuclear power, comparing Japan with several countries in East Asia and Northern Europe. Environmentally sustainable renewable energy technologies have now overtaken fossil fuel and nuclear technologies in terms of total global investment, and the costs of these technologies and related ones (e.g. storage batteries) are rapidly falling. Yet renewable energy use varies greatly from country to country. Major second stage obstacles to replacing fossil and nuclear-fueled electricity generation include the lack of electricity grid capacity and storage assets. Opportunities and solutions include expanding grids regionally and internationally, building flexible smart grids that offer better demand management, and policies that promote the expansion of storage assets, especially grid batteries and hydrogen. In addition, two key factors – electricity market restructuring through unbundling transmission from electricity generating companies; and electricity market liberalization, especially for retail customers – allow consumers to choose power companies based not only on price, but also on method of generation, especially fossil or nuclear generation versus renewable energy.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction
This chapter identifies an ongoing shift in global energy investment and electricity generation capacity away from fossil and nuclear fueled sources and toward renewable energy sources, especially regarding solar and wind power, but also with respect to biomass and geothermal. Yet, the rates of adoption vary greatly across countries. This chapter outlines second-stage challenges and opportunities to the widespread adoption of renewable energy, including grid capacity and flexibility, electricity storage and electricity market restructuring and liberalization. It identifies three causal factors that hinder or facilitate the overcoming of second-stage challenges, and their transformation into opportunities: the structure and influence of vested interests in the electricity sector, the influence of public opinion, and the presence of strong-state institutions.
Paul Midford

New Challenges and Opportunities in Japan

Chapter 2. Japan’s Energy Policy and Community Power Movement After the Fukushima Nuclear Accident
This chapter discusses Japan’s Energy policy after the Fukushima nuclear accident of March 11, 2011, and which is the largest nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl accident. In response, Germany and several other governments adopted a policy of energy shift for promoting energy efficiency, renewables, and denuclearization. How has Japan’s energy policy changed since the accident? If it remains unchanged or with only minor modifications, what are main reasons? This chapter explores these questions analyzing documents and news clippings, and interview with key players. The relative weakness of counter-veiling power of opposing political parties and civil society provides the context for explaining Japan’s relatively unchanged energy policy. An inner circle of vested interests called the “nuclear village” (genpatsu mura) still stands against real reforms. However, local level power movements, especially, active in Aizu and other areas in Fukushima Prefecture reveal new ways to build public support for an energy transition.
Koichi Hasegawa
Chapter 3. Why Japan Is No-Longer a Front-Runner: Domestic Politics, Renewable Energy, and Climate Change Policy
Why is Japan so reluctant to take a leadership role in global climate change negotiations and is trailing in the development of renewable energy? This chapter argues that the source of Japan’s inaction in climate diplomacy arises from its energy policy, which has been discouraging the extensive development of renewables. The root cause of this energy policy is Japan’s energy security concerns that have prevailed in its energy policy since the two oil crises in the 1970s. Since then, the Japanese government has promoted nuclear energy as the primary alternative source to oil, not renewable energy, while pursuing energy conservation. Climate change mitigation policy is closely tied to energy policy over which the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) of the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Trade (METI) has jurisdiction. The lack of strong political leadership on energy and climate policy renders organized economic interests and METI as the most influential. Thus, despite its tremendous potential to become a leader, Japan effectively has relinquished its leadership in climate diplomacy and the development of renewable energy.
Hiroshi Ohta
Chapter 4. Japan’s Nuclear Safety Regulation Policy
The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) was created in reaction to the nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011. The new nuclear safety agency set out to regain pubic trust by strictly regulating the safety of nuclear power plants. Defying expectations of collusion, the NRA asserted itself as an independent regulatory agency. It has warded off pressure from the Abe administration to speed up the restart process, and its enforcing of new safety standards has meant that electric utilities have faced the need for expensive investments, expensive enough to render some nuclear reactors economically unviable. As a result, the maximum feasible share of nuclear power in the country’s energy mix by 2030 will be approximately 15%, as opposed to the 20–22% the Abe administration has set as a target. However, independent safety regulation has not been enough to convince the majority of Japanese people that nuclear reactors should be restarted. Lawsuits by citizens challenging restarts have in some cases added to the already high costs of nuclear safety by prolonging the restart process. Overall, the NRA’s independent nuclear safety regulation turned out to be a game-changer for Japan’s nuclear policy—and Japan’s climate policy goals, unless the gap in electricity generation can be quickly filled with renewable energy sources.
Florentine Koppenborg
Chapter 5. The Politics of Nuclear Power Plant Restarts Versus Renewable Energy Promotion
This chapter examines the post 3-11 politics in Japan about promoting renewable energy versus restarting nuclear power plants. The Abe administration’s support for the restart of some nuclear power plants, based on the safety authorizations given by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, and Abe’s personal pronuclear position, are often assumed to mean that the Abe administration was hostile toward renewables and wanted to return to the pre-3-11 goal of nuclear expansion. This chapter asks whether this is an accurate assessment of the Abe administration’s energy policy. It finds that the answer is no. Rather, the Abe administration merely slowed down the phase out of nuclear power, while continuing its immediate predecessors’ policies of promoting renewable energy through electricity market liberalization, unbundling of grid ownership from generation, promotion of storage capacity for renewables, including the promotion of the hydrogen economy, which all facilitate the further adoption of renewable energy.
Paul Midford
Chapter 6. Renewable Energy as a New Choice for Consumers: The Case of Minna Denryoku
This chapter examines the opportunities Japan’s deregulation of its electricity market in April 2016 has created for new start-up entrants who are seeking to offer consumers the choice of buying only or mostly renewable energy, and thereby avoid buying energy produced with fossil fuel or nuclear power. It does so by introducing the experiences and strategy of one such company: Minna Denryoku, which has engaged in several innovative strategies to show the “face of electricity” on the other side of the socket to consumers.
Yuki Takebuta
Chapter 7. Betting on Hydrogen: Japan’s Green Industrial Policy for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells
The Japanese government in 2014 unexpectedly announced plans to shift to a “Hydrogen Society” by 2050. Widespread use of hydrogen fuel cells could be an important energy storage medium that allows for the large-scale expansion of renewable energy, as well as helping to decarbonize transportation and residential sectors. While Japan’s business-government efforts on hydrogen fuel cells began in the early 1990s, the 3/11 crisis and the subsequent promotion of renewables propelled this approach to the forefront. It remains unclear whether the global fuel cell industry can overcome the many technological and market obstacles that remain, but recent developments have been encouraging. If the global industry is to succeed quickly enough to help alleviate the climate crisis, governments worldwide will need to play an active, encouraging role, though green industrial policy. Other governments, including in Europe, Korea, and China, have joined Japan in these efforts.
Robert M. Uriu

New Challenges and Opportunities in East Asia

Chapter 8. Between the Rhetoric and the Reality: Renewable Energy Promotion vs. Adoption in South Korea
South Korea presents a puzzling case of renewable energy with its global-scale investment in research and development for renewable energy yet showing one of the lowest levels of renewable energy adoption. This chapter explores political, economic, and technological dimensions underlying this puzzle with close attention paid to political cleavages shaping renewable energy policy in South Korea. It also considers possible electricity market liberalization, grid capacity, and storage issues that could affect the adoption of renewable energy moving forward.
So Young Kim, Inkyoung Sun
Chapter 9. China’s Promotion of Wind and Solar Power: Supportive Policies, Geographical Challenges and Market Competition
With fierce competition among different low-carbon alternatives, the Chinese government has been adjusting subsidy amounts, on-grid tariffs and other financial incentives to support various non-fossil fuel-based energy sources. The central authorities have adjusted renewable energy targets in response to new industrial and market conditions, as well as in response to concerns from various interest groups. Hydrogen storage technology may be a future solution to the severe intermittency challenges facing renewable energy sources in China, especially for wind and solar power.
Gang Chen
Chapter 10. Solar PV in Singapore in the Absence of Subsidies
The Republic of Singapore is a city state, located on one main island surrounded by many small islets with a total land area that has grown from 581.5 sq. km. in the 1960s to 719.1 sq. km. in 2015. Singapore has a small albeit developed economy. With a 2017 GDP of 447.3 billion dollars (Ministry of Trade and Industry 2018), Singapore’s population of 5.6 million has one of the highest Gross National Income per capita in the world. Singapore does not have any traditional energy resources domestically, and its energy sector almost entirely relies on natural gas imports. Traditionally, most of Singapore’s supply of natural gas has come from pipelines that connect from Indonesia and Malaysia. However, in a bid to diversify and improve the security of fuel supply, Singapore has moved toward Liquefied Natural Gas, with an LNG terminal opening in 2013.
Gautam Jindal, Jacqueline Tao, Anton Finenko
Chapter 11. Renewable Energy Policy in Vietnam
The Vietnamese government has initiated systematic policies for promoting renewable energy since the early 2000s, and in 2017, the country became the first major developing economy in East Asia to give up developing nuclear power. However, to meet the growing demand for lower-emission electricity, Vietnam needs market-based policies in order to build a favorable environment for expanding renewable energy. With stronger commitments from the government, more effective policies such as renewable portfolio standard frameworks and auctions are expected to deliver more renewable electricity to customers. With increasing penetration of solar and wind power causing congestion on the grid, there are considerable opportunities for building local and smart grids that could facilitate more reliable and secure electricity services. Abundant hydroelectric capacity offers large potential storage capacity that can also facilitate the expansion of variable solar and wind renewable energy.
Nam Hoai Nguyen, Binh Van Doan, Huyen Van Bui, Quyen Le Luu

New Challenges and Opportunities in Norden

Chapter 12. Why Norway as a Green Battery for Europe Is Still to Happen, and Probably Will Not
From a climate perspective, the green battery idea is tremendously attractive. Norway has some of Europe’s greatest renewable energy resources, and domestic consumption of electricity is derived almost solely from renewables. Utilizing Norwegian hydropower and wind to contribute to a European energy transition seems like an obvious choice. However, despite building subsea cables to Germany and Great Britain for renewable energy exports, and greatly increasing domestic wind power generation—enabled by a past vested interest compromise between the power sector and the energy-intensive industry—there is little enthusiasm for the green battery idea. While climate arguments are part of most actors’ reasoning, these arguments seem distinctly secondary. Rather, the main idea is one of increased power exchange, i.e., Norway as a provider of balancing power, selling excess renewable energy at a profit, building cables not for climate reasons, but for profit. We suggest a long-term future with some new cables and more wind power. However, in the short term, the green battery is not edging closer to fruition, but rather the opposite. With industry interests currently dominating power sector interests, no new cables will be built for now, while wind power has meanwhile become fraught with political tension.
Espen Moe, Susanne Therese Hansen, Eirik Hovland Kjær
Chapter 13. Beyond Wind: New Challenges to the Expansion of Renewables in Denmark
Denmark serves as a model of adoption and market integration of renewables—particularly wind power. This success story has resulted from a favorable geographical location, cross-border cooperation with neighboring countries, and a well-struck balance between centralized planning and market-oriented policies. However, the transition between the successful present-day and a future fossil-free Denmark still presents several unresolved conundrums. We identify four challenges in Denmark’s transition to even more renewables. First, greening the transportation sector. Second, reforming the district heating sector while increasing its renewable usage. Third, removing the cost barriers for end-users to adopt electric transportation and heating. Fourth, meeting increasing flexibility requirements alongside dwindling domestic backup capacity. In addition, we identify lessons learned and transferrable experiences for other countries, to determine the extent to which the Danish success story can apply to other regions of the world.
Luis Boscán, Brooks A. Kaiser, Lars Ravn-Jonsen
Chapter 14. Renewable Energy in Finland: From a Production-Centric to a Consumption-Centric System
Finland, in line with its Nordic neighbours, has set itself ambitious goals to achieve carbon neutrality. By the late 2010s, the idea of a full-scale energy transition was mainstreamed in Finnish society alongside the expectation of renewable energy being the main production component in the Finnish energy system. In this chapter, we argue that an increased share of renewable energy sources is associated with the trends of electrification, decentralisation and variability. These trends contribute to a move from a production-centric to a consumption-centric energy system and require a focus on how flows of electricity are managed, stored and redistributed and how this affects the interests of the widening field of stakeholders. We focus on stakeholders’ interests as they navigate and respond to the trends associated with a higher share of renewable energy in the system with a special focus on grid development and energy storage. Our analysis highlights that whereas the need for a transition to higher shares of renewable energy is being mainstreamed, the policy development necessary is still in a formative phase and stakeholders struggle to balance and interlink the variety of their interests.
Sarah Kilpeläinen, Pami Aalto, Juha Kiviluoma
Chapter 15. Conclusions
In this chapter, we compare this book with what in many ways was its predecessor, The Political Economy of Renewable Energy and Energy Security (Moe and Midford (eds.) The Political Economy of Renewable Energy and Energy Security: Common Challenges and National Responses in Japan, China and Northern Europe. Houndsmill, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2014). This volume looks at challenges that were still in the future back in 2014. Then, renewable energy policy was primarily about support systems, such as FITs, and about rapidly phasing in renewable energy from a very low base. The present book instead recognizes that as ever more renewable energy was phased into the grid, grid systems and the lack of energy storage became the next obstacles to a renewable energy transition, not government support systems for rapid installation. And yet, while the challenges are changing, the countries we looked at in 2014 are in many ways still distinctly recognizable. Their policy challenges are in many ways similar, as are the ways in which they deal with them. Thus, for policymakers, the renewable energy transition to a major extent still consists of muddling through, pragmatically solving problems as they arise, as much as it consists of gazing far ahead into the future.
Espen Moe
New Challenges and Solutions for Renewable Energy
Dr. Paul Midford
Espen Moe
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