Renewable Energy: The Gap Between Japan and Other Countries

May 27, 2011 7:02 AM

From May 26th to 27th, I attended the Climate Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.

In addition to members of the European Parliament and the European Commission, a total of over 60 members of congress from EU nations and Asian countries such as India and Taiwan, and researchers and businessmen from the U.S. and Asia attended the conference. Because the conference was held with Taiwan's support, China did not participate. However, India participated with the largest number of eight legislators.

The only members to attend from Japan were KAWAGUCHI Yoriko, a member of the House of Councillors, and myself. Even businessmen did not attend the conference and I had the impression Japan's influence seems slim.

Critical topics regarding Asia were Japan's post-Fukushima energy strategy, which I brought up in Friday morning's discussion, and the binding the Asian Supergrid to connect East Asia.

Sessions were also conducted regarding the management of funds to encourage renewable energy in developing countries, particularly in Africa.

Because of the large participation of EU states, there was much discussion about binding the supergrid through high-voltage DC lines.

Currently, the world's share of offshore wind power is divided between England with 52%, Denmark 23%, with Belgium, Germany, and Finland following. Developments farthest from shore can reach 50 km, averaging a depth of 40 m.

Offshore wind power between countries such as the United Kingdom, the North Sea, Germany, Belgium, and Norway are connected through a supergrid, and beginning with hydroelectric power generation in the Alpes, wind power facilities in the Iberian Peninsula, and solar power facilities in the Sahara Desert, there is discussion of the profitability of a large-scale supergrid connecting London to Munich using waterways and railroads. The return on equity (ROE) are based on a construction of the supergrid that will take 6 years and have a lifespan of 40 years.

There was also a proposal to examine a supergrid linking Australia, Indonesia, the Indochinese Peninsula, China, the Korean Peninsula, and Japan, using the solar energy provided by Indonesia's geothermal energy and China and Australia's desert.

The initiative is to reroute a supergrid in Asia similar to the communication line.

In addition, there was a presentation from experts about solar thermal energy and thin film solar energy. The storage efficiency of solar thermal energy is valued to be higher compared to that of solar power, and it is further estimated that the cost of thin film photovoltaics will decrease by one-fourth of the current price by year 2014.

From the first day of the meeting, I was already sensing the difference between Japan, whose experts point out the problems of renewable energy, and other countries that thoroughly investigate its possibilities.