The draft legislation incorporates a yet-undefined obligation on power companies to buy electricity from renewable energy sources, and a similar obligation on companies which own their own power transmission facilities. The proposal requires companies and heavy electricity users to buy a fixed amount of renewable energy credits, issued in proportion to the amount of green power produced, on an open market. Tax breaks and other subsidies are also under consideration.
As a first step in the legislative process, MITI's minister, Takeo Hiranuma, presented the strategy to the parliamentary budget committee last month. The government initiative follows reports that Japan is having difficulty meeting its carbon dioxide reduction targets. These were expected to be made from new nuclear power stations, but safety concerns, prompted by the scandal in Britain last year regarding falsification of paperwork on spent nuclear material, have delayed these plans.
Political observers warn that renewables advocates should not get excited until they see the proposal become law. MITI has been a staunch supporter of nuclear. A wind group is active in parliament, though whether its intention is to stall progress or speed it remains unclear in the murky world of Japanese politics.
Meanwhile, the worst fears of the Japanese wind lobby were confirmed last month when two more utilities issued tenders for no more than minimal amounts of wind power, following the 10 MW lead set by giant Tokyo utility TEPCo (Windpower Monthly, March 2001). That was followed by a 100 MW tender from Tohoku, also considered small. Most recently, utilities in Shikoku and Kyushu announced tenders for 15 MW and 50 MW, respectively. Chubu Electric Power has issued a mini-tender for 20 MW this year.