In spite of its huge deficit of natural resources, Japan’s cities are characterized by neon lights, luxury gadgets and 24 hour service culture. But in March 2011,when the devastating Great Eastern Japan Earthquake forced mass reactor shut down, even the megatropolis of Tokyo fell dark . Tens of thousands are still displaced from their homes in Fukushima, and the dangers of Japan’s existing nuclear power generation dependent energy economy are now difficult to ignore.
Two years later, and the nation has well and truly woken up to the need for safe, sustainable power generation. With the help of government subsidies, many are switching to solar power generation.
Solar panel installation has become the activity du jour for many companies and investors across Japan– a technology few had previously demonstrated any interest in. An ‘explosion’ of solar parks is popping up around the country in response to skyrocketing demand.
Japan has become one of the most rapidly growing users of solar energy in the world
This spike in interest was partly prompted by a government policy which guaranteed substantial payments to those selling renewable energy. Due to this so called feed-in tariff system, investors and analysts estimate that Japan has become one of the most rapidly growing users of solar energy in the world, and is forecast to install enough panels this year to equate to the energy generating capacities of five to seven nuclear reactors.
Although Tokyo’s core decision makers remain firm on their commitment to atomic energy, for the average citizen, mistrustful of central government policy after a series of damaging environmental cover-ups, nuclear power has become an outdated an unjustifiable burden to live with. The nature of solar panels makes it easy for anyone to install, and mass private uptake is demonstrable of this wave of anti-nuclear feeling.
Although some agencies debate how long this wave of public devotion to renewable energy sources will continue once consumers are hit with spiking power bills, the majority of the general public argue that it is a worthwhile sacrifice. Others point to the ‘hidden’ costs of nuclear power that only emerge when something goes disastrously and irrevocably wrong.