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7:15 pm JST
Apr 28, 2015

Energy

Q&A: Fukushima City Aims for 50% Renewable Power

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  • Mari Iwata
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    Fukushima Mayor Kaoru Kobayashi, second left, participates in an event to promote Fukushima products.
    Fukushima City

    Japan’s central government proposed Tuesday that renewable energy account for up to 24% of the nation’s total power generation in 2030. That figure is much lower than a target of 40% set by Fukushima, the capital city of the prefecture where the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is located. By 2040, the city aims to push the renewable share up to 50%.

    Kaoru Kobayashi, mayor of the city, talked about the plan in an interview. The following are edited excerpts:

    WSJ: A target share of 50% for renewable energy by 2040 is quite ambitious. Isn’t that a huge challenge?

    Mr. Kobayashi: It may be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Because we have been severely affected by the (Fukushima nuclear) accident, we must create a society that doesn’t have to rely on nuclear power.

    WSJ: The city of Fukushima is more than 80 kilometers away from the plant. How was the city affected by the accident?

    Mr. Kobayashi: Unfortunately, because the wind blew northwest during the time of the accident, it carried some radioactive material here. That has severely affected the farming and food processing businesses. We have many old onsen hot springs here that were popular tourist spots. Now, Iizaka onsen has only 80% of the number of tourists it had before the accident. For Tsuchiyu onsen, the figure is only 60%.

    WSJ: How will you achieve the renewable energy goal?

    Mr. Kobayashi: Already, 23% to 24% of electricity used in the city comes from hydro power. Because we have large mountainous areas in the city, there are more places that have yet to be used for hydro-power generation. The city also has many waterways where water mills can be set up.

    WSJ: Who owns all the hydro-power plants?

    Mr. Kobayashi: Most of them are owned by the local power utility. But we plan to encourage citizens and small businesses to invest in renewable energy using various policy incentives. Currently, facilities owned by these kinds of investors only provide 3.5% of the electricity used in the city. We hope to boost that ratio to 9.4% by 2020 and 30% by 2040.

    WSJ: The city has many hot springs. How about geothermal?

    Mr. Kobayashi: Geothermal is good, but [sharing a resource] doesn’t always work well with the hot spring industry. Recently, a new technology called binary geothermal has been introduced at Tsuchiyu. It doesn’t generate as much electricity as conventional geothermal technology, but it seems to fit better with the hot spring business.

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