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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 November 14 - 20  > Japan should promote localized renewable energy generation
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2018 November 14 - 20 [SOCIAL ISSUES]
column 

Japan should promote localized renewable energy generation

November 17, 2018

Akahata ‘current’ column

Two months have passed since Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido experienced a massive blackout after a powerful earthquake hit the Iburi region in the prefecture. The Hokkaido Electric Power Company is a utility that heavily depends on high-output power plants, namely a nuclear power plant and a large-scale coal-fired thermal power plant. Japan needs to think what kind of energy policy is necessary to prevent a massive blackout from happening.

Let us take a look at Miyama City in the Kyushu region, southwestern Japan, which is a front runner in creating a local energy supply system. A city government-funded company runs a solar power plant and sells electricity to local residents. Before the foundation of the company, residents and businesses in the city paid around three billion yen in total in electricity costs to Kyushu Electric Power Company. With the foundation of the local solar farm, the money that used to go to Kyuden started to circulate in the city, stimulating the local economy, which led to more jobs and more young people moving in.

On the other hand, Kyuden hampers the growing trend for renewable energy sources. While restarting four nuclear reactors, the utility even temporarily prohibited solar power plants from sending electricity to Kyuden’s grid. Kyuden asserts that the output of solar power plants is unreliable as it fluctuates wildly, increasing on sunny days and plunging at night.

Criticizing the power company, Fukae Mamoru, an activist shareholder, said, “It is the responsibility for the utility and the government to create a system to offset the fluctuations in power supply from renewable energy sources at night.” Fukae, who serves as the secretary general of a group of consumer shareholders of Kyuden, pointed out that the cost for safety measures related to reactor reactivation stands at one trillion yen just for Kyuden and nearly 10 trillion yen in total for all utilities in Japan. He said that power companies should use these funds to develop small-sized, affordable batteries that can store electricity generated by solar power plants in the daytime.

In Germany which commits itself to the promotion of natural energy sources and the effort to depart from nuclear power, nearly 1,400 small-sized power plants are operating and expanding their presence. They are the fruits of collaboration between local governments and local businesses. The pressing task is for Japan and the rest of the world to work to create societies which do not depend on fossil fuels and nuclear power.

Past related articles:
> Hokkaido blackout stemmed from dependence on nuclear power [September 16, 2018]
> Abe gov’t energy plan disregards domestic and global trend toward departure from nuclear power generation [July 4, 2018]
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