M-RCBG Associate Working Paper No. 127

The Effect of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster on the Evolution of the Global Energy Mix

Winner of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business & Government Prize for the Best Paper by a Master's Student

Caroline Dunn
Akshar Wunnava



There is a growing consensus that nuclear energy must be a part of the global energy portfolio to meet climate targets. Thus, it is important to study the effect of shocks on the evolution of the global energy mix. The Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 had a profound impact on public perception of nuclear energy. The resulting reduction in nuclear power required a shift in the global energy mix to supplement this gap. Through a series of event studies and differences-in-differences analyses, we found that the Fukushima disaster led to a ~4% growth in global renewable energy generation (~290TWh) and capacity (30GW) from 2012-2016, and a ~0.3% decline in global fossil fuel generation (~135TWh) and capacity (15GW). We also find that countries had divergent responses to Fukushima, whereby some countries had a long-term shift in domestic energy policy, while others experienced a short-term shock, but made negligible changes to their long-term trajectories. The results of these analyses serve to inform how future shocks in energy supply may alter the global energy mix as we strive to ward off the worst impacts of climate change.

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