A fist in the air. Fukushima prefecture can be forgiven for using that symbol of protest after the nuclear disaster a decade ago. In the case of renewable energy firm Aizu Electric Power, however, its fingers are rainbow-colored.
Started in 2013 by Yauemon Sato, the head of an over 200-year-old, family-run sake brewery, Aizu Electric is a reaction to the unprecedented triple reactor meltdown March 11, 2011, that displaced over 160,000 people and created radioactive no-go zones that may last for generations. Aizu, a wholesale renewable energy company, aimed to wean the western region of Fukushima off of nuclear and fossil fuel-generated electricity, and juice the local economy by keeping the $100 million a year in electricity revenues from flowing out of the region.
Today the company, whose local investors include banks, municipalities and individuals, powers about 1,800 households, mainly from photovoltaic generation, making it the largest renewable energy firm in a prefecture known for its sake, rice, traditional arts and history. But its entire generating capacity, spread out over nearly 90 locations, is equal to less than 1 percent of that at a large nuclear- or fossil-fueled power plant of one gigawatt, in large part because of obstacles to accessing the transmission grid owned and operated by the incumbent utilities.