At G8, Japan turns toward the sun

People walk under solar panels.

Kai Ryssdal: The G8 summit in France this week was Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan's first trip out of the country since the earthquake and tsunami two and a half months ago. He told some of his biggest trading partners today that Japan is going to rebuild some of its nuclear power capacity, but not expand it. Instead, they're going to play a major role in the global push for green energy.

From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Eve Troeh reports.


Eve Troeh: Japan's got an energy equation to solve. Its plans to get half its power from nuclear are off the table now. Experts predicted Japan would use natural gas to pick up the slack.

But the new Sunrise Plan says: no. Japan will meet its expanding energy needs with solar, wind and energy efficiency. Blaine Collison is with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Blaine Collison: This is a significant and serious piece of national energy strategy. Nations don't make those commitments without believing in the suitability of the outcome.

And the speed of the outcome. Collison says the Sunrise Plan shows renewable energy is ready now, on a wide scale. The increased demand will drive down price.

Collison: There's a market ready and waiting and needing to be supplied.

Japan has aggressive strategies to back up its lofty goals. It's already saving power. Some workers now take weekends on Thursdays and Fridays, to ease up pressure on the grid. The government wants to mandate a solar panel roof on every new building, and it's planning huge fields of solar panels -- some on farmland that's toxic from nuclear radiation.

Nathan Parmelee is an investment advisor at the Motley Fool. He says the renewable energy push will help Japan's economy.

Nathan Parmelee: Japanese companies historically have done very well in electronics and they've kind of been languishing with all the competition, but this could really light a fire underneath them.

Japan might have to import oil and gas in the short term. But the Sunrise Plan looks toward a new day of solar innovation and energy independence.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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