More than a year-and-a-half after the tsunami and resulting nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japanese policymakers are trying to figure out what to do about Japan’s power-generation future. In September, the government released a document titled “Revolutionary Energy and Environment Strategy,” which proposes to eliminate all nuclear generation in Japan by 2040. While the general public continues to support a transition away from nuclear power in Japan, business leaders have argued that such a change would increase energy costs, thereby making Japanese companies less competitive in an already increasingly competitive East Asian market.

Japan pays incredibly high rates to import LNG, which has become only worse since Fukushima and is driving up energy prices.

Close to one-third of Japan’s power generation came from nuclear prior to Fukushima, and before the tsunami, there had even been discussion of increasing the share of nuclear to 50 percent with hope that this would help the country reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Now that much of the population wants to phase-out nuclear by 2040, Japan faces an interesting question of what to do with its power sector in the future.

One solution, and what Japan has largely done in the short-term, is to rely more heavily on fossil fuels. After Fukushima, Japan began importing more natural gas and oil to make up for its loss of nuclear generation, and the share of fossil fuel generation in its electricity mix rose to 73 percent (a level not seen in decades) by early 2012. The problems with this increase, however, are numerous.

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electricity, energy policy, feed-in tariff, japan, natural gas, nuclear, oil, renewable energy, sustainability

Recent legislative proposals in a number of states across the country have reignited the debate over how  ‘sustainable’ hydropower actually is,  and if it is truly emissions free. California’s Assembly Bill 1771, which was rejected in the state legislature this past April, would have allowed large hydropower facilities to contribute toward state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). As a growing number of states establish increasingly ambitious targets for shares of energy production from renewable sources, there has been ongoing discussion about what types of hydropower should be included in these RPS schemes.

In the United States, state regulators divide hydro into two categories – small and large – depending on the facility’s installed generating capacity. For example, California considers any facility with at least 30 megawatts (MW) of capacity to be ‘large hydro’. Currently, utilities in most states can count only ‘small hydro’ toward RPS targets.

Zipingpu Dam in China's Sichuan Province

California’s Assembly Bill 1771 is neither the first nor the only proposal of its kind. As states that have implemented RPS programs scramble to reach their renewable energy targets, the movement to count large hydro towards these goals has gained momentum.  Similar bills have been proposed in California in the past, as well as in Minnesota. North Dakota currently counts all hydropower in its RPS, including power imported from Manitoba, but stipulates that large hydro facilities must have been placed in service on or after Dec. 31, 2010. Wisconsin will allow utilities to count hydropower from large facilities starting in 2015. 

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carbon sinks, hydropower, large hydro, low-carbon, renewable energy, renewables, small hydro, sustainability

On October 13th and 14th, I represented the Worldwatch Institute at the 4th Annual International Conference on Energy, Logistics and the Environment.  The conference was held in Denver, Colorado, and it was well attended by stakeholders, government officials, natural gas industry experts, innovators and entrepreneurs, academics and other interested parties.  The conference was organized by the Global Commerce Forum and was given the theme, A Sustainable Energy Future for Emerging Economies: Focus on Africa.  Discussion focused on the imperatives for clean energy development in emerging economies.  Traditionally, industrialized nations developed via fossil-fuel energy.  Industrialization fostered economic growth and prosperity in the developed world.  Many industrialized nations have prospered largely because heavily subsidized fossil-fuels have provided for affordable and reliable energy.  However, environmental concerns are driving industrialized nations to seek new energy sources and infrastructure to develop clean environments.

With its focus on Africa, the conference sought to answer one of the contentious questions in international discourse on energy development: ‘should emerging and developing nations develop their energy infrastructure from these same traditional energy sources, or are there now other, better options available to them?’  In his opening remarks, Don McClure, Vice President of Government & Stakeholder Relations & Legal of EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc, indicated that Africa is in a unique position to invest in critical thinking that produces a “leap frog” in innovation.  He also indicated that Africa is in an enviable position to avoid the pitfalls associated with fossil fuel development through lessons learned from developed countries.  In a keynote address presented by former Governor of Colorado and Director of the Center for the New Energy Economy, Colorado State University, Bill Ritter, the intersection between access to energy services and education was highlighted. Governor Ritter also indicated that access to modern energy services is important in that it facilitates educational opportunities for children in developing countries. He stressed the need for an economy powered by clean fuels and public health in Africa.  He concluded by stating that there can be ‘no economic development without reliable power.’

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Africa, energy, Innovation, natural gas, renewable energy, sustainability

By Haibing Ma and Lini Fu  

China has launched more than 100 ”Eco-City” initiatives in recent years, according to a 2009 World Bank report—more than any other country worldwide. These efforts have proven to be an investment hot zone and appear to be a timely mechanism for building China’s sustainable future, particularly as the country urbanizes rapidly. But actually implementing these diverse projects has hit its own sustainability snags, putting a halt to or even shelving several initiatives and putting many others in serious question. 

Photo copyright belongs to

Finnish professor Eero Paloheimo, in his pioneering book on the concept, Syntymättömien sukupolvien Eurooppa (The Way Towards a New Europe), observes that most existing theories and designs for Eco-Cities worldwide share a common goal: to enhance the wellbeing of citizens and society through integrated urban planning and management that fully harnesses the benefits of ecological systems, and protects and nurtures these assets for future generations. According to Paloheimo, an Eco-City should embrace the two basic features of: 

China, Climate Change, Dontan, eco-city, emission reduction, Green Buildings, green development, green economy, low-carbon roadmap, Shanghai, sustainability, sustainable agriculture, sustainable deveopment, Tianjin, Wanzhuang

An open letter addressed to “leaders across India” was released last week by the Indian Youth Climate Network. The letter, whose targets include Ministers of State, climate negotiators, political party leaders, and business, media and civil society heads, calls for those in power to hear the voice of their future generations and look past the numbers to the deeper issues being faced by India today.

The letter  includes a call for a moratorium on disposable plastic, a major reforestation drive, education with sustainability at its core,  a weekly moratorium on vehicular and industrial air pollution, adherence to a development path that is based on the Gandhian principals of “need, not greed”, the promotion of ethical values through the media, and for community driven decision making.

“India has the resources herself to change things, the greatest resource is each and every Indian,” the letter states.

Linkesh Diwan, a member of the 20-strong Indian Youth Delegation to Copenhagen said of the letter, “We want to raise attention about the bare issues that confront our human race, relevant not only to people in India, but across the world… These are the deeper issues we must address and they resonate with people more strongly than numbers alone. The problem goes deeper than simply carbon,” he added.

The letter can be accessed here. [For those not familiar with the word “Ji”, it is a term of respect, meaning something like “sir” or “madam”, and in India is used to express respect when speaking to ones seniors.]

Climate Change, Indian Youth Climate Network, leaders, open letter, sustainability