Given the dearth of natural resources, new concerns over nuclear power, and a “mottainai” mentality, it seems natural that Japan should look to put in place policies and develop technologies in order to increase renewable energy. A non-profit organization called Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies, in conjunction with a research lab at Chiba University, completed a study in December that counts 52 municipalities in “energy sustainable zones.” These zones are defined as “an area where energy demands for households and business activities as well as for agriculture, forestry and fisheries can be completely satisfied by renewable energy generated within the area.” The Tohoku region, in the northern part of Japan that experienced the tsunami disaster last year, has a number of prefectures that are highly self-sufficient both in renewable energy and food. The study shows varying increases in renewable energy sources. By category,
photovoltaic (PV) power increased by 36.1 percent (%) from the previous fiscal year, with the launch of the Excess Electricity Purchasing Scheme for PV Electricity in November 2009. Wind power and biomass power also continued to increase by 16.5% and 8.5%, respectively. Micro-hydropower (10,000 kilowatts or less), geothermal power and solar thermal power decreased slightly. All told, the domestic supply of renewable energy increased by a mere 4.2% from the previous fiscal year.
Given that a feed-in tariff system approved by the federal government last year will be implemented this summer, the amount of renewable energy being used should see even larger growth. This is one area where Japan should not look to the U.S. for guidance or advice but take a strong and clear leadership position by itself. There is a lot the U.S. can learn about energy efficiency by studying Japan.
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