Magazine article New Internationalist

Renew Yourself [Alternatives to Nuclear Power]

Magazine article New Internationalist

Renew Yourself [Alternatives to Nuclear Power]

Article excerpt

Britain: Micro is beautiful

Microrenewables - renewable energy technology suitable for home use - are demonstrating enormous potential for individuals Uterally to take power into their own hands. The New Economics Foundation reports that if a thud of electricity customers installed just 2 kilowatts of microrenewables (either wind or solar), it would match the capacity of the British nuclear programme.1 Furthermore, community-owned and managed renewable energy initiatives are on the rise, with Scotland taking the lead.

Japan: Leading light

Japan - with the third most nuclear reactors of any nation - has been plagued by a series of mishaps at its nuclear stations that have led to plant closures, cost overruns, radiological release and the deaths of workers at facilities. The resultant publk disaffection with the technology has led to a massive push by the Government in the area of solar power. By die early 1990s, the Japanese Government began offering subsidies for installing solar panels on households. As a result, 'rooftop power'is now cheaper than electricity from the nuclear-fed grid. Solar is doing so well in the country chat subsidies are being phased out and still capacity is expected to grow by 20 per cent a year without any extra support. Japan produces more solar power than any other nation on earth.2

Germany: Atom Energie? Neia Danks!

Germany was the one of the first leading economic powers officially to announce its intention to phase out the use of nuclear energy. Political will has also helped propel Germany to be one of the leading inspirations for renewable energy policy. A 1991 law forced utilities to buy any renewable power that anyone generated, and at a generous price. Since then, the country's solar capacity has been expanding by nearly 50 per cent a year. It already produces more energy from the sun than any country except Japan. An estimated 10,000 people are employedin the sector.3 The vast majority of Germans also support building more wind turbines and expanding renewable energy in the power mix. According to one survey, 70 per cent of Germans favour the construction of additional turbines. With regards to nuclear, 59 per cent of Germans characterize nuclear power and radioactive waste as 'dangerousl The Government predicts that by 2020, wind energy will cover 20 per cent of German power use and will be cheaper than power produced from conventional energy sources.4

US: You'd be surprised

A 1990 study by five national laboratories surmised that increasing research and development budgets by just the cost of building one nuclear power plant ($3 billion spread over 20 years) could enable renewable energy to provide a half to two-thirds of the total energy then used in the United States by 2030. …

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