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2012 Vol.3
The Possibility of Local Energy Governance in the Kansai Region

2012/07/01

The Great East Japan Earthquake compelled us to question the operation of nuclear power plants which had, until then, been considered central to our energy resources. It also revealed that our reliance on large-scale, centralized electric power sources could cause considerable confusion in an emergency situation such as an earthquake disaster. Following this revelation, three considerations are now important to address: there should be a discussion of alternative large-scale, centralized electric power sources that can replace nuclear power generation; there should be a shift to smaller-scale, diffused electric power sources that allow energy autonomy at local level in an emergency; and an energy infrastructure should be developed, comprised of both hardware and software to connect these independent sources. Taking into consideration these three factors and the circumstances in the Kansai region, this paper discusses the possibility of local energy governance in the region.
The Kansai region has relied on nuclear power generation for half of its electric power supply. Streamlining LNG thermal electric power plants is now being discussed and, in addition to in-house power generation, smaller-scale, diffused electric power sources are now being prepared in the region. Moreover, special zones and a negawatt market are being implemented: special zones are designed to facilitate the construction of infrastructure and the preparation of legislation that will allow for a switchover between power sources in an emergency, and the negawatt market will incorporate energy conservation into the market system. There are a number of issues to be solved before these approaches can be fully implemented, involving the legal system, high costs, technology development, and consumer support. It is suggested that a trans-prefectural body such as the Union of Kansai Governments works to solve each of these issues in turn and delineate the picture of future local energy governance in the Kansai region. Citizens and business actors should share the blueprint and cooperate to achieve a common goal.

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