Mika Ohbayashi, director Renewable Energy Institute, Tokyo

"We no longer require nuclear energy"

Mika Ohbayashi is the director of the Renewable Energy Institute, founded in 2012. Founded by a billionaire, it's the first lobbying organisation, which doesn't use any government funds, that is committed to promoting renewable energy.

70 Megawatt Solar Power Plant Kagoshima Nanatsujima

"Japan is in a race to catch up when it comes to renewable energy. Since a feed-in tariff for renewable electricity was introduced in the summer of 2012, the number of projects has increased more than fivefold. The focus is on photovoltaics, with over 90 per cent. With energy savings and solar energy, it was possible to compensate for half of the production of the last two nuclear reactors, which were shut down in August 2013. But we still have a long way to go. In fact, the share of renewable energy in the total energy production is only at 8 per cent, almost half comes from hydropower. Despite the boom, photovoltaics is a little over one per cent, and wind power in one of the windiest countries in the world is marginal at best. Japanese simply relied on nuclear energy for far too long, even when it was actually clear since the turn of the millennium that we are dealing with an outdated model. Japan's major electricity companies have neatly divvied up the market with the state's approval. Each one is limited to its region, and no one hurts the other. The result is that the capacity of the transmission lines is far too low to transport electricity from the wind-rich north to the industrial metropolitans of the south. Even within the regional electricity networks, capacity is so limited that several companies are stepping on the breaks and refusing access to small-scale solar power plants and solar microgeneration. This obstructionist policy is too unwise even for lawmakers. Liberalisation of the electricity market is planned for 2016 to force the monopolists into action given that Japan has the potential to achieve an energy transition with renewable energy, just as Germany is doing with impressive results. In the long term, by around 2050, we will be able to produce our electricity solely from renewable energy. We expect that by 2030 alone, around one third of our current electricity needs will no longer be necessary thanks to rigorous energy savings. Until then, 40 per cent of the electricity can come from renewable sources. The remaining requirements could be temporarily covered by highly efficient gas power plants until sufficient renewable capacity is built up. We no longer require nuclear energy for this purpose. Meanwhile the government forces the cost issue and uses a study from the government-affiliated Institute of Energy Economics to paint a gloomy picture on the wall. It argues that a nuclear phase-out would not only give rise to enormous costs, but also hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost. If I may say, that is pure propaganda for the nuclear industry."