Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Japan and the energy question

The earthquake in Japan and its triggered tsunami caused many casualties and a nuclear incident at the Fukushima plant. As the world deeply mourns for this tragedy, the debate is back on whether nuclear energy should be included in the energy mix of the future. Because there are both pros and cons about nuclear technology, this is a difficult to answer question.

This statement actually goes for all electricity generation technologies; there is no champion which is better than the others. Fossil fuel electricity generation causes climate change, nuclear power generation produces dangerous nuclear waste and finally electricity generation from renewable energy sources makes up for only a slight percentage of today’s energy mix. Renewables still need a lot of investment to gain economies of scale.

The incident in Japan makes us think about how the future of energy will look like. While Hidehiko Hishiyama’s, a director general at the trade ministry, states that renewable energy alone isn’t sufficient and that nuclear power is essential, one needs to take into account another important trend in the energy and utilities sector. This is the development of smart grids and smart meters. Smart meters make measurement possible. And that which can be measured, can be managed. Consequently, companies which have implemented an energy management system can save money and resources by reducing their carbon footprint.

If energy efficiency and smart grids will be part of everyday use in the future, (intermittent) renewable energy sources are a better fit to the energy demands than (bulky) nuclear power. However, if safety can be guaranteed with regard to nuclear power generation, also this can be considered as an interesting alternative. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree. Yes there are still problems with nuclear power generation, but it must be remembered that the technology employed at the Fukushima is old - and that the compnay were warned about this problem years ago and never took any effective action. On the whole, nuclear power is, ironically, one of the cleanest and safest power sources on the planet for the time being (and certainly the only viable provider for the world's energy demands in the near future. Roll on nanotech solar energy, though!)

    Owen Law