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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Survey: 80% of municipalities eager to promote renewable energy

About 80 percent of municipal governments across Japan are keen to promote renewable energies in the hope that the new energy sources, technology and sales revenue will help revitalize regional development, a survey shows.

The Asahi Shimbun and Hitotsubashi University carried out a joint survey to mark the second anniversary of the government feed-in-tariff system introduced in July 2012 to kick-start the market for renewable energy.

Of 1,279 municipal governments that responded, 74 percent said they currently operate power facilities using renewable energies.

More than 60 percent said that local governments, corporations and citizens groups are involved in the operation of renewable energy plants, symbolizing local initiatives to promote recyclable energies.

The industry ministry has reported the number of power plants using renewable energy and their outputs in each of the qualified prefectures. But this is the first time that an extensive survey has been conducted to uncover each municipality’s scope of use of renewable energies and its willingness to introduce them in the future.

The Asahi Shimbun and a research team of Hitotsubashi University led by Shunichi Teranishi, a specially appointed professor of environmental economics, sent out inquiries to all 1,741 municipalities across Japan and had received responses from 1,279 local governments as of July 21.

Asked why they are promoting recyclable energies, the municipalities said they want to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, develop sources for local energy production, effectively use idle lands and promote regional development.

Although the municipalities have long purchased electricity and fossil fuels from outside sources, the development of locally produced new energy can play a key role in sustaining their economies, alleviating the impact of population decline.

In Akita Prefecture, about 100 local manufacturing companies are working together to develop a “Made in Akita” wind power generator in a project led by the prefecture and a local bank.

It is an ambitious project to locally produce the more than 20,000 parts needed to construct the wind turbine. Such equipment is currently manufactured by major electronics companies.

“The popularization of renewable energy has increasingly allowed local municipalities to produce electricity on their own,” said Tetsunari Iida, director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies.

Iida said the development of renewable energies is a move away from the "colony model" of energy consumption, in which local communities depend on outside energy producers.

"It is important for local communities to develop energy sources by their own initiatives and circulate the benefits within their communities,” he said.

The survey also said that 284 municipalities cited the lack of sufficient capacity in their local energy transmission network as an obstacle to introduce locally produced energy.

The problem stems from the fact that Japan’s energy transmission network is created on a mass production and consumption model, and local networks are given relatively low capacity.

As many as 402 local governments said difficulties in financing is a major obstacle, while 388 cited the lack of know-how.

Although the industrial groups have called for a review of the current feed-in-tariff system on grounds it causes higher utility prices, about 30 percent of local municipalities said the system should be maintained to help promote renewable energy.

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