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Impact of small-scale renewable power "very meaningful"

July 16, 2012





Gov't renewable energy stats nearly 7 million kilowatts short



The exclusion of small energy producers has left government renewable energy generation statistics about 7 million kilowatts short, it has been learned.

Unofficially, excluding hydroelectric power generation over 1,000 kilowatts, Japan pumped out some 10.1 million kilowatts of renewable energy in fiscal 2011, according to Agency for Natural Resources and Energy statistics based on data from the Japan Wind Power Association and other renewable energy groups. However, the agency's official statistics, based only on reporting from large electricity producers, say Japan is generating just 3.04 million kilowatts in renewables.

The reason for the gap is that producers of less than 1,000 kilowatts do not need to report their generating statistics. The reasoning was that the tiny amounts of energy put out by small operations would have very little effect on the total. With the rapid advance of self-sufficient, small-scale energy generation, however, these small producers can no longer be ignored.

The energy agency estimates that 2.5 million kilowatts in new renewable energy generation capacity will go on-line in fiscal 2012 -- equivalent to starting up 2.5 nuclear reactors. Around 60 percent of this comes in the form of home solar power systems that produce just a few kilowatts each, meaning the gap between official and actual renewables generation will continue to widen.

In one of the three scenarios for Japan's energy future presented recently by the government, 25-35 percent of the country's power would come from renewable sources by 2030. In order to get to that level in an organized way, however, statistics reflecting actual output are needed. In particular, as weather and regional conditions affect the amount of power that can be generated by solar and wind, a lack of accurate data could hamper analysis of which regions are best suited to which types of generation and what kinds of renewable energy to promote.

The gap shows "how sloppy the understanding of the status of renewable energy has been under the government's policy focused on large-scale power generation, such as nuclear energy," says Chiba University special instructor Takeshi Magami, who studies the introduction of renewable energy on the municipal level. "If the reporting procedures of the various power companies are expanded, (the statistics) will be in better shape."

Consistency of the statistics is another consideration, and the energy agency does not currently plan to review its methods. However, "Even if individual renewable energy producers generate power on a small scale, when connected by a network they are very meaningful indeed," says Kazuhiro Ueta, professor of environmental economics at Kyoto University. "I think it's time to consider changes to the statistical methodology that fit the times."

(Related link)

Japan Wind Power Association: http://jwpa.jp/index_e.html


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