Monday 16 May 2011

Sustainable Energy

Last week when I was in Osaka, our new boss, Mr Otsubo, CEO of Rengo, remarked on our new-found 'literacy' when it comes to radiation. Microsievelts, bequerels, these words roll off the tongue these days. Who would have thought it a few months ago? We learnt the hard way. The big problem now is shortage of electricity and he urged us to get basic literacy in this too.

At present 35 out of the 54 nuclear reactors in Japan are out of action. Japan's energy policy previously aimed for 50% nuclear but Kan has ordered a serious look into sustainable energy.
My son Takeshi recommends a book on sustainable energy which I want to pass on. It's by someone who, by coincidence, gave me some solid  advice when everyone was in a panic in the early days (thank you, Ben).

This guy got fed up with people making wishy washy statements about sustainable energy so he wanted to work out the numbers to see if it added up. What he does is calculate how many wind turbines, how many solar panels you would need to power Britain. It turns out that none of these are enough on their own so you need a combination. The conclusion is that if you wanted to power the UK on renewables (including nuclear), you need to invest 870 billion GBP. That's a lot but the UK spends 75 billion GBP per year on energy so it's not unrealisable (p.217 of the book). But there will be opposition, like the HS2, to covering the countryside with solar panels and wind turbines.

Here's a video clip about the book:

You can download the book for free from:

I downloaded the 10 page pdf and was intrigued to see the different combinations: the total renewable plan (need to cover the countryside with solar panels and wind turbines); the NIMBY plan (importing solar energy from the Sahara); the economical plan (nuclear), etc.

Incidentally, this book has been translated into several languages but not Japanese. Any volunteers?

Takeshi adds, 'If any country could switch completely to renewables, it's probably Japan. After the nuclear disaster they have the motivation, also the technology and funds. Japan is also blessed with mountains all over the country where they could store the intermittent energy generated by renewables for later use as hydroelectricity.' And, a bit tongue in cheek, 'The Japanese preference for concreting the landscape might even be a strength'.
This is not an easy subject. There are difficult trade-offs. But we can't go on as we are. We need to get literate and this is a good start.
Koriyama is warming up and I'm beginning to wonder how I'm going to keep cool without using the air conditioner and without opening the windows. I think I'd better buy a fan.
Bye for now


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