June 6(Monday)

"The next era" (1): My experiences with wind power


"I wish to pass on various responsibilities to the younger generation once a certain degree of progress has been made in tackling the earthquake disaster and once I have fulfilled my role to a certain extent.  I urge you to allow me to carry out those responsibilities until that progress in handling this earthquake disaster and nuclear accident has been achieved.  ...When that degree of progress has been attained, I will hand over responsibilities to the younger generation and I hope to foster anew the understanding of the people... towards the next era."


This was the appeal I made at last Thursday's party meeting of DPJ legislators.  I would like here to expand upon what I envision in using the words "the next era" within that statement.


The government has submitted to the current session of the Diet a bill that will constitute a significant step towards "the next era."  There have been hints foreshadowing this since more than thirty years ago.


In late 1980 when I was first elected as a Diet member, I set off for the United States in order to visit a large number of civil society organizations.  As one part of that, I visited the National Wind Test Center (in the suburbs of Denver), where dozens of kinds of wind-power generation facilities were being test run.


Upon asking what happens to the power generated, I was told that it was sold to a power company through a backward feed over the transmission lines.  In that way, even the electricity not consumed at one's own house can be utilized effectively.  Upon returning to Japan, I immediately set to work to see if such a thing could also be done here, but I ran into the wall of the Electricity Business Act, which restricts the purchasing by power companies.


Domestically, since the then-Science and Technology Agency had launched a wind power test project called the "Fu (wind)-topia Project," I took this up in the Diet to encourage it.  I also toured the two large-scale wind power generating facilities that TEPCO had set up on Miyakejima island.  However, the project was ultimately called off as it was concluded  not to be economically feasible.


It has been thirty-plus years since I was first elected to office.  During this time, wind power and solar power have been treated by electric companies as a nuisance, resulting in failing to develop them in earnest and lagging dramatically behind European countries, despite our excellent technologies.  I intend to take the opportunity of the recent nuclear accident to review the Basic Energy Plan from a blank slate and to foster natural energies such as wind and solar power as core energies for "the next era."


What will serve as a major step towards that end is a system of feed-in tariffs for the purchase of electricity generated by natural energies.  If we are able to achieve such a system, we will succeed in breaking through the legal wall that I had run into when I was a newly-elected legislator.  We are at the point where a Cabinet decision has been reached on the bill on the feed-in tariff.  This decision was taken on March 11 of this year.  However, the great earthquake struck on that very same day.


While a slight delay occurred as a result, we have presented this bill to the current Diet session.  By enacting this bill into law and establishing at an early time a price at a level at which economic viability can be achieved, wind and solar power will surely expand at an explosive pace.

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