Japan is set to make some big steps into the renewable industry from July onwards, with it’s ventures into multiple sources of clean energy production and low-carbon technology. This is a key development after the closure of every single nuclear reactor come May, once providing roughly 1/4 of the country’s energy needs.
First on the table is a brand new solar FiT (feed-in-tariff), which will hope to incentivise and fund companies and customers desperate for a bit of sunlight-energy in their lives, and will aim to work in much the same way the German and UK FiTs functioned, until the cuts obviously. A major difference however, is that this tariff will force utility companies to purchase electricity from clean sources at predetermined prices, and this will have to be passed down to the customer, in the form of a slightly fatter bill through the letterbox.
This is one of the primary hurdles which must be jumped in order to put this tariff into place, as many ministers and analysts will struggle to pin down an appropriate price which can be nationally distributed without anger and reprisal from the public. On the other hand, the Japanese are known for their obedience and rational thinking in situations like this, and so I feel that once a price is set, both utilities and customers will work together to make the FiT work efficiently.
Various projects are in the planning and finance stages, ranging from a whopping 340MW plant in Hokkaido, to a 70MW construction which will stretch out across part of Kagoshima Bay and all it’s shiny glory. Many other smaller projects round the proposed sum up at almost 0.5GW of solar energy.
Next up is geothermal, probably one of the least mature renewable energies, but one that is growing rapidly in both public favour and investment. Growth up to 2GW is expected by 2020, from 537MW today, with the Japanese government going as far as to allow building in national parks, where the majority of geothermal resources lie. Hopefully they will plan to mitigate any environmental damage in these regions, with green construction techniques and smart ways of handling building on protected land employed throughout.
It would seem that geothermal is a very Asian fad also, with roughly 50% of investment going to the region in future, as proposed by Stefan Linder, a New Energy Finance analyst.
Finally, and this I find particularly ingenious and cunning, the Japanese are heavily investing in biomass plants, which will burn much of the debris left by the devastating 2011 tsunami and earthquake, of which 70% constitutes wood. Four 1.5MW plants have been financed by the government, with each switching to waste produced by timber and paper mills once the debris has been eaten up. Neat eh? They let nothing go to waste it seems, burning debris to produce electricity for those likely still suffering from the disaster.
First Energy Service Co., which already has an 11.5MW plant set-up, plans on processing irradiated waste, such as that left over from the Fukushima-Daiichi explosion, cleaning the goods to the point where no radiative material is emitted.
This shows again how resilient and innovative the Japanese can be, and to an extent the wider Asian world, and I feel many Western nations would do well to follow suit, implementing multiple forms of low-carbon technology to juice up their grids. Whether this mix will allow them to overcome the nuclear gap they are now left with is difficult to judge, but I am inclined to say that this is the only the beginning, and that Japan will need much more of the same to progress.