Today in Cleantech

This morning brings lots of energy news from Japan, a country on the forefront of the energy challenges facing the world at large. Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactor complex disaster has forced the island nation to confront its energy future in ways that are shaking the country. Prime Minister Naoto Kan, facing withering criticism of his government’s handling of the disaster, has agreed to step down — but not before he oversees passage of an energy law that would set lucrative rates for renewable energy to boost clean power development. This proposal is facing criticism from the nuclear power-friendly opposition party, however, which says it could boost power bills sky-high — a similar concern facing utilities in the U.S. and Europe. Japanese clean energy has its champions, including billionaire Masayoshi Son, Japan’s richest man, who has proposed building massive solar projects — but the sketchy proposal would require him to gain access the country’s transmission system in ways that could shake up the country’s centralized utility system. In the meantime, pressing short-term power problems remain. Tuesday saw Japan planning to restart the first nuclear reactor of all those closed after the March earthquake and tsunami. While the country is stricken with nuclear fears, it also faces critical power shortages this summer unless it ramps up its shuttered nuclear power capacity.