Making efforts to restrain people’s financial burdens and having the resolve to not undermine the stable electricity supply are essential points in promoting renewable energy.
An expert panel of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has launched a full-scale study on measures to expand renewable energy generation using such sources as sunlight and wind.
This is because major power utilities have insisted there is a capacity shortage of transmission lines, and renewable energy suppliers have abandoned plans to undertake new projects for this one after another.
A certain amount of capacity in transmission lines could be reserved according to how they are operated. The panel plans to call on utilities to make the portions of transmission lines they set aside for emergency power during periods of tight supply-demand or accidents also available for renewable energy.
As Tohoku Electric Power Co. has set a quota to accept 2.8 million kilowatts of renewable energy, the total volume in applications to supply it with renewable energy amounts to more than five times that. If the utility implements the measures to be presented by the advisory panel earlier, it is said that it will be able to boost the amount of renewable energy it can accept 1.6-fold.
Pursuing the goal of effectively using existing facilities instead of constructing a new power grid, which would require huge amounts of spending, makes sense.
The increasing electric power rates households and businesses are burdened with, which are linked to the spread of renewable energy, is a matter of serious concern.
Ensure balanced supply sources
The number of new entries into the renewable energy business rose sharply after the feed-in tariff (FIT) system, which sets purchase prices at fixed levels, was introduced in 2012, when the government was led by the Democratic Party of Japan. Setting the prices at which renewable energy is purchased by power entities at levels much higher than in countries that introduced the FIT system earlier, including Germany, was a mistake.
The financial burden that tops up the electricity bill will total ¥2.1 trillion in fiscal 2017. The standard household will bear about ¥8,200 a year.
The government has set the goal of raising the proportion of total energy generation that comes from renewable energy from the current 15 percent to 22-24 percent in fiscal 2030. If this is realized, the total financial burden will reach ¥3 trillion, with the standard household’s share topping ¥10,000 a year.
Devising an innovative system for curbing utilities’ renewable energy purchase prices by as much as possible is imperative.
Last year, the government adopted a competitive bidding system for large-scale solar energy-generation projects. It sets the purchase volume of renewable energy under the FIT system and selects bidders that offer lower and adequate prices. The range of fields subject to competitive bidding should be expanded to such power sources as wind.
There are concerns about stable supply regarding renewable energy generation that fluctuates depending on the weather and time of day. For now, this cannot be positioned as a core power source, like nuclear power and coal-fired thermal power generation.
Late last month, when the Tokyo metropolitan area was hit by heavy snow, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. urgently procured a maximum amount of electricity of 2 million kilowatts — equivalent to the power generated by two nuclear reactors — from other utilities.
The government must steadily proceed with the restarting of nuclear reactors and focus on ensuring a balanced variety of electricity sources.