Renewable energy sees its chance in Japan’s electricity market – The Washington Post

Two years ago, Japan’s second-largest city launched a small-scale environmental experiment, encouraging residents to install solar panels on their roofs and buy pricey equipment to track how much energy they use.Yokohama officials’ goal was simple: to save power and cut the city’s carbon emissions.

But since the nuclear disaster that transformed the way Japan thinks about both energy and the companies that supply it, Yokohama’s “smart city project” has taken on potentially larger significance. What began as a modest environmental plan now stands as a controversial blueprint for a system in which the country’s monopolistic utilities would lose their absolute control of the grid.

In Yokohama, the households with both solar panels and meters act as micro-size power companies, generating electricity, using what they want and in some cases selling the surplus back to the Tokyo Electric Power Co. Tepco. That model contrasts sharply with the one that has served Japan for decades, as 10 privately owned utility companies established regional fiefdoms, largely reliant on coastal nuclear plants and allowing little room for renewable-energy projects that would cut into profits.

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Japan’s clean energy technology plans

Japan will develop and promote new clean energy technologies after the nuclear crisis, new foreign minister Koichiro Gemba says.

We have bullet trains and water. From now on, there will be environmental technology, said Gemba, signalling a shift away from nuclear power, a technology the country has previously exported.

The minister, whose constituency Fukushima is at the centre of the ongoing atomic crisis, said new developments would include state-of-the-art solar batteries, which could replace nuclear reactors in the future.

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Japan takes Canada to WTO over renewable energy rules

Japan asked the World Trade Organization on Wednesday to form a legal panel to decide whether Canadian provincial backing for solar and wind energy projects gives an unfair advantage to domestic equipment makers.

Japan has given up direct attempts to resolve a spat over an Ontario scheme that guarantees prices for renewable energy as long as it is generated with Canadian-made equipment, Japan’s ambassador to the WTO said in a letter to the chairman of the WTO’s disputes division.

"Consultations failed to resolve the dispute. As a result, Japan respectfully requests that a panel be established to examine this matter," Ambassador Yoichi Otabe wrote.

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