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Comparing electricity transitions: A historical analysis of nuclear, wind and solar power in Germany and Japan

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  • Cherp, Aleh
  • Vinichenko, Vadim
  • Jewell, Jessica
  • Suzuki, Masahiro
  • Antal, Miklós

Abstract

This paper contributes to understanding national variations in using low-carbon electricity sources by comparing the evolution of nuclear, wind and solar power in Germany and Japan. It develops and applies a framework for analyzing low-carbon electricity transitions based on interplay of techno-economic, political and socio-technical processes. We explain why in the 1970s–1980s, the energy paths of the two countries were remarkably similar, but since the 1990s Germany has become a leader in renewables while phasing out nuclear energy, whereas Japan has deployed less renewables while becoming a leader in nuclear power. We link these differences to the faster growth of electricity demand and energy insecurity in Japan, the easier diffusion of onshore wind power technology and the weakening of the nuclear power regime induced by stagnation and competition from coal and renewables in Germany. We show how these changes involve the interplay of five distinct mechanisms which may also play a role in other energy transitions.

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  • Cherp, Aleh & Vinichenko, Vadim & Jewell, Jessica & Suzuki, Masahiro & Antal, Miklós, 2017. "Comparing electricity transitions: A historical analysis of nuclear, wind and solar power in Germany and Japan," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 612-628.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:101:y:2017:i:c:p:612-628
    DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2016.10.044
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