Japan Poll: Switch to Renewables, But Take It Slow

As Japan continues to consider its energy future, a new poll released by Japanese newspaper The Mainichi Daily News indicates that though nearly three in four Japanese citizens want to move away from nuclear power, only one in 10 believe the country should sever ties immediately.

The poll comes as the nation finds itself at an energy crossroads. The March earthquake and the tense weeks and months that have followed have done much to solidify the nation’s wariness towards nuclear power. As Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan prepares his exit, the nation is also debating a legislative change that would mandate utilities to purchase renewable energy.

On Tuesday, Japan’s lower house of parliament passed the renewable energy legislation. The upper house will take up the bill, and potentially pass it as early as this week. It remains unclear how supportive Japanese would be if the mandates drive up the cost of electricity considering the same newspaper poll also found a majority of Japanese oppose a consumption tax to pay for the rebuilding effort.

According to the poll, 74 percent were in favor of a gradual phase out of nuclear power plants, 11 percent called for an immediate end and 13 percent thought there was no need to alter policy.

Prior to the March earthquake, nuclear power accounted for 30 percent of the nation’s energy portfolio. Renewable energy, meanwhile, accounts for about nine percent of the country’s mix. The country has 54 nuclear reactors, but only 15 are currently in operation. That has forced the country to cut down dramatically on consumption this summer – with a drop of about nine percent compared to 2010, according to the Federation of Electric Power Companies. 

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