Campaign for geothermal power use gains momentum

November 16, 2011

By TORU NAKAGAWA / Staff Writer

The industry ministry and lawmakers are increasingly promoting the use of geothermal power as part of a nationwide drive to diversify power resources following the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

"We need to develop geothermal power in the earliest phase," the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a statement on Nov. 15.

Japan has geothermal reserves capable of generating more than 20 gigawatts of electricity, equal to the output of 20 nuclear reactors.

However, about 80 percent of the reserves are located in national parks, posing a legal roadblock to increasing the use of geothermal power.

After the start of the Fukushima accident, and the subsequent delay in restarting nuclear reactors, demand for geothermal power surged.

"Unlike wind and solar power, geothermal heat can provide a more long-term and stable supply," METI said.

On Nov. 15, METI held a meeting with academics and experts to exchange views on Japan's policies on natural resources and fuel. Ministry officials stressed the importance of promoting geothermal power as a natural resource produced in Japan, in addition to the significance of securing a sufficient supply of oil and natural gas.

METI is considering providing financial aid to companies planning surveys for geothermal power use, as well as establishing a debt guarantee system to fund work to dig wells in the construction of geothermal power facilities, the ministry said.

A bipartisan group of about 70 Lower House members promoting geothermal power adopted a resolution on Nov. 15 requesting the easing of regulations on development in national parks.

The group wants such development to be incorporated in a bill that will establish special zones for accelerated recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The proposal said areas to be developed for geothermal power facilities should be treated as special zones.

By TORU NAKAGAWA / Staff Writer
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