Energy Transition

Japan’s energy challenge: from sustainability to survivability

Tatsuo Masuda
Professor, Kaishi Professional University
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Energy Transition

In a series of posts related to to the World Economic Forum’s New Energy Architecture report, Professor Tatsuo Masuda of Nagoya University of Commerce and Business explains Japan’s need for a shift in its approach to sustainable energy. Read the Japanese Case study related to this report here. You can  also read all of our energy reports and see our latest videos, including our New Energy Architecture Video on our Energy Issues Page.

Over the past decade international leaders have failed to agree on meaningful actions to tackle climate change. Meanwhile the global environmental situation has continued to deteriorate. The days of discussing “sustainability” may now be over. Instead we must seriously consider how we may achieve “harmonious survivability”. The slow rate of progress underlines the need to shift to a “New Energy Architecture”; a step that Japan must also take.

The Fukushima incident has worked as a powerful stimulus for change. In the Kanto region of over 30 million people, some 15 % of electricity saving was achieved in the summer of 2011. It proved that Japan has ample room for improvement, despite long being considered as a world leader in the realm of energy efficiency. Japan’s demand-side responses to Fukushima represent a social experiment on a giant scale. Its efforts on the supply-side, such as the introduction of a feed-in-tariff in July 2012, will help release an unprecedented wave of technological innovation.

It is clear that the world is watching with great interest how Japan will overcome its energy challenges. A detailed country study on Japan, conducted towards the end of last year highlighted three key actions that will enable Japan to make an effective transition, and respond to the challenge of climate change:

Firstly Japan must create a new best practice model for energy efficiency. The response to Fukushima has shown that when the population recognizes a challenge and agrees on a solution, they can act quickly and in unison. However, many of the behavioral changes adopted during the summer of 2011 were uncomfortable and impractical. “Smart” technology can be used to enable long-term change and support efficient lifestyles.

Secondly Japan must expand renewable deployment and support the development of “new” energy industries. Industry must be at the forefront of efforts to develop cheaper and more efficient means of renewable generation. This would provide a business opportunity to export and develop clean energy technologies in emerging economies. The government’s introduction of a clear and workable feed-in-tariff, that creates stability and encourages private investment in renewables, will help support this objective.

Finally, Japan must create new markets and infrastructure for energy transmission and distribution. Furthermore, the connection of Japan’s energy network to its regional neighbors in East Asia could provide utilities with significant new business opportunities as well as improved energy security. Japan has the opportunity before it to become a “guiding light” for the world’s new energy architecture. This, I believe, is the most important international contribution she could make.

Author: Professor Tatsuo Masuda, Nagoya University of Commerce and Business, and member of the Global Agenda Council on New Energy Architecture

Photo: he Japanese national flag flutters near a gas flare from a factory at Keihin industrial zone in Kawasaki, south of Tokyo June 10, 2009. Japan, the world’s fifth-biggest greenhouse gas emitter, will target a cut in emissions by 15 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, Kyodo news agency said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

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