Japan Nuclear Crisis Mixed Message for Renewables

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"Crisis to fuel interest in renewables but sharpen coal, oil and gas demand."

Japan's nuclear crisis will boost interest in clean renewables such as solar and wind power but may also sharpen demand for coal, oil and gas, whose carbon pollution drives climate change, experts said Monday.

"The accident in Japan is not a death sentence for nuclear power," stressed Jean-Marie Chevalier, an economist and energy expert at the Universite Paris Dauphine, pointing to the hundreds of billions of dollars invested in existing reactors and plants under construction.

But the scare surrounding the crippled reactors at the Fukushima plant means nuclear's renaissance will be crimped, at least in the short term.

Governments in India, the U.S. and Europe are under pressure to review safety standards or slap a moratorium on new projects. Germany and Switzerland have already said they are putting nuclear extension plans on hold, pending safety reviews.

"At the very least, we would expect significant investments in nuclear to be delayed, or deferred, for a period of one to two years," said Rupesh Madlani, renewables analysts at Barclays Capital in London.

In the short run, any energy shortfall in Japan, and elsewhere, will be filled by fossil fuels, said other experts.

Jacques Percebois, head of the Centre for Research on Energy Economy and Law at Monpellier University, agreed the fossil fuel industry would be early beneficiaries as it could provide gigawatts of quick power.

"Those who declare a moratorium on new nuclear energy should understand that the available solution for meeting large-scale energy demands today is not solar panels, it's gas," he told AFP.

At the same time, though, a slowdown in nuclear investment would also steer money into renewable energies, which since the 2008 financial crisis have been struggling to expand their share of the world's power market, several experts said.

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