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Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Mr. Kan's lofty energy goal
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said last week in France that Japan will generate 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources in the early 2020s. The new goal is 10 years ahead of the government's original 2010 plan.
He also mentioned a plan to install solar panels in 10 million households.
Although he failed to declare that Japan will reduce its dependence on nuclear power generation, his goal is reasonable in view of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
On the same day, the Japan Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), Japan's biggest labor organization and the largest supporter of the Democratic Party of Japan, decided to freeze its policy of pushing nuclear power generation, adopted in August 2010. Rengo's decision is likely to boost Mr. Kan's efforts.
He hopes to reduce the cost of voltaic solar panels for power generation to one-third the current level by 2020 and to one-sixth the current level by 2030 through technological innovation.
Currently the percentage of renewable sources in Japan's power supply is only about 1 percent, and if hydraulic power generation is added, the rate is about 9 percent.
The goal set by Mr. Kan is very high. The government should secure funds to promote not only solar power but also wind and other renewable energy sources. Since the supply of renewable energy sources can be unstable, significant investment will be required to improve the power grid.
At present, a system exists in which power companies buy surplus power generated by solar panels. To promote renewable power sources, Mr. Kan must strive to ensure that a bill is enacted that will obligate power companies to buy surplus electricity from all other renewable sources, including wind, geothermal, small-scale hydraulic and biomass.
As long as Japan's 10 power companies monopolize power transmission lines, people will have difficulty buying power from small-scale power generating entities that use renewable energy sources.
Mr. Kan must exercise strong leadership to liberalize the power-distribution system.