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In the wake of the quake: Japanese towns choose energy self-sufficiency

Date: 12-Oct-17
Author: Billy Pringle

The trend towards self-reliance for energy has lead to microgrids in Japan and increased interest in storage in Australia

The trend towards self-reliance for energy has lead to microgrids in Japan and increased interest in storage in Australia

Like many cities and towns in Japan, Higashi Matsushima suffered severe damage during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, losing three-quarters of its homes and 1100 people. In repairing the damage, the city of 40,000 people has chosen to pursue energy self-sufficiency through the construction of micro-grids and decentralised renewable power generation.

In addition to the initial devastation, dozens of towns and cities faced power outages as blackouts shut down large sections of the grid. The new system in Higashi Matsushima includes solar arrays and battery storage, which will keep the city running even if surrounding areas are blacked out.

The rebuild relied on funding from the Japanese Government’s National Resilience Program, which has allocated US$33.32 billion this fiscal year for development efforts across the country. While the program is mainly for rebuilding capabilities in the event of another disaster, many municipalities are following Higashi Matsushima’s lead and creating microgrids to reduce their reliance on large power plants.

“Since Fukushima, there has been a gradual elaboration of policies to realize that kind of local autonomy, local consumption paradigm,” said Professor Andrew Dewit, an expert in energy policy at Tokyo’s Rikkyo University.

The notion of energy self-reliance has been gaining greater currency in Australia too. But while Australia leads the world in domestic solar generation, businesses have been slow to follow. That picture is changing rapidly however, in the face of recent price increases and a climate of energy uncertainty.  New research by consultancy firm SunWiz shows that business solar installations have jumped 60 per cent during the past 18 months to 40,736 systems.

“It used to be electricity was comparably cheap for business when compared to residential electricity prices, but what we are seeing now is electricity prices for businesses really skyrocket and it’s started to become a significant expense,” SunWiz managing director Warwick Johnston told ABC News.

“What we’re also noting when new buildings are erected, warehouses and factories, very often there’s a large solar system installed the day that the factory is erected, that’s a common and emerging trend,” Mr Johnston said.

Just as occurred with solar panels, the cost of battery storage is now heading south at speed. As this occurs, the old paradigm of large centralised energy generators transmitting power to distant users is gradually being displaced by a model of local homes and businesses as both users and generators of clean, renewable energy.

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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


Billy                                             Pringle
Author: Billy Pringle

Billy has completed a Masters in Discourse and Social Theory and is a frequent volunteer and supporter of Planet Ark.

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