Japan’s Ministry of Environment to promote geothermal energy

The Japanese Ministry of the Environment has vowed to introduce geothermal energy to the country with the backing of several local municipalities.

Other stakeholders that will be consulted include local resident associations as well as companies.

The ministry will set up consultative bodies of municipalities interested in hosting geothermal power generation facilities, local residents and relevant companies to help communities reach agreements on the construction of such plants, the sources said.

The ministry believes that the new system can shorten the periods needed for starting geothermal plant construction by up to three years.

The ministry plans to earmark necessary funds for the project in its budget request for fiscal 2016, which starts next April, the sources said.

Geothermal power generation is a stable source of renewable energy that is unaffected by weather conditions.

Japan is believed to have the world’s third-largest potential for geothermal power resources, capable of producing an estimated 23.47 million kilowatts of electricity if fully developed.

In its energy target for 2030, the central government plans to increase the proportion of geothermal power generation from the current 0.3 % to between 1.0 % and 1.1 % of the country’s overall electricity generation.

One of the challenges for increasing geothermal power generation is that such projects take a lot of time. At present, over 10 years are necessary from project planning to the start of construction, industry sources said.

Due to the need to dig wells in volcanic areas, geothermal project operators in many cases face difficulties in winning local support over concerns that hot springs could dry up due to effects from drilling.

In fiscal 2015, the ministry began creating local consultative bodies for wind power generation in some regions.

It plans similar bodies for geothermal power generation from fiscal 2016, hoping to invite applications from two or three regions with local municipalities that are interested in such projects.

Based on the outcomes, the ministry will compile a guide to geothermal power projects as early as the end of fiscal 2017 so other interested regions can use it.

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