Reduce your energy costs in Japan and Japan’s energy situation post-Fukushima

Delegation of the European Union EU to Japan in Tokyo

Energy costs in Japan: A presentation to diplomats from the 28 EU countries (+ Norway and Switzerland) given at the EU Delegation in Tokyo on Thursday 18 May 2017

How can you reduce your energy bills?

Energy costs in Japan, how to reduce energy costs, and the current energy situation in Japan post-Fukushima are inherently linked and are the topics of this talk given by Gerhard Fasol at the EU Delegation (EU Embassy) in Tokyo on Thursday 19 May 2017.

Electricity prices in Japan compared to EU countries. Electricity charges in Japan are about 40% cheaper than in Germany.

Energy costs in Japan: Even now, post-Fukushima, electricity costs in Japan are not particularly high, if Japan was a EU country, Japan’s electricity costs would be ranked at about 15th or 16th rank.

Japan’s electricity charges are about 40% cheaper than in Germany, and on a similar level as in France or UK.

  • Ireland c€59.01
  • Germany c€40.28
  • Spain c€37.26
  • Sweden c€36.11
  • Portugal c€33.41
  • Denmark c€32.78
  • Czech Republic c€31.92
  • Cyprus c€31.79
  • Austria c€29.88
  • Finland c€29.20
  • Italy c€26.61
  • Slovakia c€26.30
  • France c€25.09
  • Luxembourg c€24.29
  • Croatia c€23.10
  • Japan c€23
  • Slovenia c€22.68
  • UK c€20.19
  • Poland c€18.80
  • Hungary c€18.35
  • ….

(source: Eurostat as of July 2013, energy costs in Japan: electricity costs for Japan are typical Tokyo household electricity charges)

Paradigm shift: redesign the electricity grid

We see a paradigm shift: we need to change how we think about energy. Our electricity supply system has been built over the last more than 100 years and many design principles have been decided 100 years and have then been frozen in, although they might not be the best choices any more in today’s world.

Traditional electricity grids are designed top-down, with large centralized power stations at the top, and a distribution system down to the end users.

This traditional hierarchical top->down integrated grid structure is globally in the process of reinvention. The different services:

  1. generation
  2. transport
  3. grid frequency stabilization
  4. distribution

are being split into separate businesses, and each one is being deregulated. In addition, the top-down structure is changed: renewable energy sources, micro-hydropower station and other sources feed electricity into the grid from the bottom-up, requiring changes in the design and management of power grids.

In Japan the traditional electricity grid has three hierarchical layers:

  1. Special high voltage (特別高圧)
    1. 500kV, 270kV, 140kV
    2. 60kV
    3. 20kV
  2. High voltage (高圧) 6kV
  3. Low voltage (低圧) 200V, 100V

These three markets (1) Special high voltage, (2) High Voltage, (3) Low voltage, are approximately of equal size in Japan, and represent each about 1/3 of Japan’s electricity market. The (3) Low voltage market was deregulated on April 1, 2016, and the other two market sectors earlier. Up to March 31, 2016, 10 regional electricity operators had the monopoly in the retail (low voltage) sector of their regions. Since April 1, 2016, all markets are liberated and low voltage segment consumers are free to buy their electricity from a number of suppliers.

50Hz/60Hz

Electricity started in Japan in 1893:

  • The first generator in Tokyo was from the German firm AEG, and therefore 50Hz
  • The first generator in Osaka was from the US firm General Electric, and therefore 60Hz

Event today the west of Japan has 60Hz, while the east has 50Hz. Since semiconductor electronics enables frequency conversion, and since long distance transport is frequently DC anyway, this 50Hz/60Hz split is very unlikely to change.

AC/DC

For historic reasons, most electricity is delivered to end customers as AC (alternating current), however most consumption today is increasingly DC (direct current). e.g. LED lighting, computers and most IT equipment including data centers require DC electricity. Solar power plants also produce DC electricity. Battery storage also requires and delivers DC electricity. So we might see an increasing shift to DC electricity supplies.

How to reduce your energy bill

Energy costs in Japan: in the past urban design typically maximized electricity sales:

  • 'All Denka' was a long-term campaign by Japan’s electricity industry to maximize the consumption of electricity
  • design model:
    • build the town in order to sell as much electricity/air-conditioners/gas as possible
    • top-down: huge nuclear power stations far away + top-down distribution system
    • single windows, save money on insulation
    • heating in winter, air conditioning in summer

In the future

  • communities, companies and household take responsibility of energy locally
  • 'positive energy buildings': buildings generate and sell electricity instead of consuming. Example: MORI-Roppongi Hills
  • THINK: Marunouchi & MORI Buildings: 'we want to be so well prepared for disasters, that people don't run from our buildings, but that people come to our buildings for safety'
  • take responsibility!

How to reduce your energy bill > earn money selling electricity

    Plan, design and build energy positive buildings, sell electricity

  • cut consumption
    • Insulate
    • buy low-energy equipment, e.g. air-conditioner, washing machine
    • LEDs instead of bulbs and fluorescent tubes
    • energy management system
  • generate electricity:
    • solar, wind, heat-exchangers, heat-pumps, co-generation
    • fuel cells (e.g. Bloom (gas), or Enefarm, Panasonic) > off-grid
  • negotiate supply contracts, combine gas & electricity & phone/internet to get discounts
    • e.g. all three major phone companies (KDDI, Docomo, SoftBank) sell electricity, internet access etc + electricity. Combine: phone, internet, electricity to get discounts.

Nature governs energy – nature cannot be fooled

Today’s energy situation in Japan is directly a function of the outcome of the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi disaster.

To understand the reasons for why the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi disaster happened, it is necessary to go back in history, there is not one single reason for this nuclear disaster but many starting at the design decisions taken even before the construction started.

It is instructive to compare the situation of TEPCO’s Fukushima-Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant with Tohoku Electric Power’s Onagawa nuclear power plant:

  • TEPCO’s Fukushima-Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant: tsunami height = 13 meters, one of the worst nuclear disasters
  • Tohoku Electric Power’s Onagawa nuclear power plant: tsunami height = 13 meters: successful shut down without damage, served as a refuge for about 300 people from the neighborhood who had lost their homes in the tsunami and earthquake disasters

Why the difference?

  • TEPCO’s Fukushima-Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant: ground elevation was reduced from 35 meters to 10 meters to save cooling water pumping costs
  • Tohoku Electric Power’s Onagawa nuclear power plant: Yanosuke Hirai carefully research previous tsunamis, especially the Great Jogan Tsunami of July 13, AD 869, built 13.8 meters above sea level

Read in detail in our review of the Fukushima and Tohoku disasters, 6 years after, our blog of March 11, 2017:
http://www.eurotechnology.com/2017/03/11/tohoku-disaster-6-years/

A few days after the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi disaster, US President Obama sent 150 top nuclear engineers to Japan for 11 months to assist directly the Japanese Prime Minister and the Japanese Government and TEPCO to mitigate the nuclear disaster. The Leader of this team of 150 US nuclear experts was Chuck Casto, who I invited two times to talk at the Ludwig Boltzmann Forum events. Read Chuck Casto’s explanations of the Fukushima Disaster here:

I also invited the Kiyoshi Kurokawa, the former Chairman of Japan's Parliamentary Commission into the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, to speak at the Ludwig Boltzmann Forum:
Kiyoshi Kurokawa: “Groupthink can kill” (6th Ludwig Boltzmann Forum 20 February 2014)

Summary

  • Nature governs energy, and nature cannot be fooled (Richard Feynman)
  • Global trend: reengineering the grid. Localize, democratize, liberalize, deregulate
  • Renewable energy: wind power can cover all of Japan’s energy needs (in principle)
  • Energy, electricity and gas market liberalization is going ahead

Interview in The Economist:

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Angela Merkel in Japan to discuss renewable energy

Renewable energy Japan: research report (pdf) on Japan's solar, onshore and offshore wind, geothermal, water, biomass electricity generation markets

German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel in Japan March 9-10, 2015

Hopes for Japan and Germany share at least part of the path to renewable energy

Germany’s Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, Physicist with a PhD (Chancellor Angela Merkel’s PhD thesis is available here) and several scientific publications to her credit, visits Tokyo today Monday 9 March and tomorrow Tuesday 10 March 2015.

Angela Merkel’s official interview preparing for Japan visit

In the official interview commenting on her Japan trip (watch on YouTube here), Chancellor Merkel says: “Wir setzen jetzt sehr auf erneuerbare Energien. Und ich glaube, Japan sollte auch diesen Weg gehen – und geht ihn ja auch. Und wir sollten ihn vor allem in Deutschland und Japan auch ein Stueck zusammen gehen. Das heisst, ich werde dort auch ueber den Ausbau erneuerbarer Energien sprechen.”

Our translation to English: “We put much emphasis on renewable energy now. I think Japan should also go along this path – and indeed goes along this path. We should proceed on this path at least partly together. This means, I will talk about the expansion of renewable energy during my Japan visit.”

Report: Energy efficiency – opportunities for Japan and Europe

The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, a German public policy think-tank financed by German Government funds, recently organized conferences on Energy efficiency in Tokyo, Kyoto and Kobe, and engaged our company to produce a report on “Energy efficiency – opportunities for Japan and Europe”.

Download the report free of charge as a pdf-file here from the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung website (pdf-file).

If you need to know more, read our reports:

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Storage battery testing laboratory for batteries up to 2 MegaWatt hours

Electricity storage is crucial for the efficient use of renewable energy, especially solar and wind

Japan plans to build world’s largest storage battery testing laboratory

Wind farms and solar plants deliver electricity not continuously, but output depends on weather, wind and solar illumination conditions. Battery storage technology is necessary to store solar electricity produced during the day for usage during night hours when the sun does not shine.

Storage battery testing laboratory planned

The Japanese Government is planning to build the world’s largest testing laboratory for batteries up to a capacity of 2 Giga Watt hours, largest in the world. Planned investment is on the order of YEN 13 billion (US$ 130 million).

The purpose is to develop and test battery storage systems for integration with renewable energy generation systems such as solar plants and wind farms

Japan biomass electricity generation booming

biomass in Japan eurotechnology.com

Japan biomass electricity generation approaches 4 GigaWatt

Renewables in Japan is not just solar…

Looking superficially at Japan’s renewable energy sector, its easy to overestimate geo-thermal energy, and to underestimate biomass.

Biomass electricity generation capacity is about 5 times higher than geo-thermal

Japan biomass - Biomass electricity generation capacity in Japan approaches 4 GigaWatt
Biomass electricity generation capacity in Japan approaches 4 GigaWatt

Currently the installed biomass electricity generation capacity is about 5 times higher than for geo-thermal energy production – a fact often overlooked in superficial discussions.

Biomass electricity production is included in Japan’s new feed-in-tariff program which started in July 2012, and is also very generous.

The figure above shows approvals for electricity generation projects from biomass under the new feed-in-tariff program, and demonstrates that after a slow start, approvals are now picking up. The sum of biomass generation facilities operating before the introduction of the new feed-in-tariffs plus approvals since July 2012 approaches 4 GigaWatt, which corresponds approximately to the generation capacity of 4 nuclear reactors.

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Solar Japan: Japan approves a full Germany worth of renewable energy in a single month

Solar Japan: driven by the high cost of LNG, Japan approves almost as much renewable energy in a single month as all solar energy ever installed in Germany

Solar Japan: some of the world’s most attractive feed-in-tariffs

In the single month of March 2014 Japan approved almost as much renewable energy projects as all solar ever installed in Germany

Japan’s ten regional electricity monopoly operators traditionally kept renewable energy below 1% following an unwritten rule. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) kept renewable well below this magic 1% limit – until recently TEPCO’s renewable energy ratio was about 0.05%, slightly “greener” than Kansai, and Shikoku Electrical Power Companies with 0.03% renewables, and Chugoku Electrical Power Company with 0.02% of renewables in their energy mix.

Complete reversal of Japan’s previous “no renewables” strategy

Switching off all nuclear power stations combined with extremely high natural gas (LNG) prices forced change of this “no renewables” strategy in Japan, and Japan quickly moved in the opposite direction with some of the highest feed-in-tariffs globally, about three times higher than in Germany. (To understand the details of LNG costs and prices for Japan, read our Japan Energy Report, where you’ll find month-by-month data of Japan’s coal and gas payments, as well as the price developments and the reasons for the extraordinarily high prices Japan pays for LNG and LPG).

solar japan : Driven by high LNG costs Japan approves almost as much solar energy projects in a single month as ever installed in Germany
Driven by high LNG costs Japan approves almost as much solar energy projects in a single month as ever installed in Germany

Solar plants ever installed in Germany total about 36.5 GigaWatt – Japan almost approved as much renewables in the single month of March 2014

Germany’s Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) published detailed data of solar energy projects installed and approved for subsidy in Germany. As of May 31, 2014, all solar power ever installed and approved for subsidy in Germany amounts to 36.5 GigaWatt (peak). The figure above shows that Japan’s Industry Ministry METI approved about 26.7 GigaWatt of solar projects under the feed-in-tariff program during the single month of March 2014 alone.

Here are the actual figures of renewable electrical power projects approved by METI under the FIT program during the single month of March 2014 alone:

solar projects less than 10kW: 159,070kW = 0.16GW
solar projects over 10kW: 26,521,483kW = 26.5GW
Subtotal solar (all sizes): 26,680,553kW = 26.7GW
Total all types of renewable energy: 27,436,598kW = 27.4GW

The figure also shows that March 2014 is somewhat an anomaly – because feed-in-tariffs are reduced each year on April 1 at the beginning of the new financial year, METI cooperates with applicants to approve large numbers of applications during the last month of the previous tariff. Thus renewable project applications in Japan have developed an annual rhythm.

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Scandinavian renewable energy conference in Tokyo

Was invited to attend the Scandinavian renewable energy conference in Tokyo.

Topics covered:

  • Electricity infrastructure, market and governance
    • Electricity market reform in Japan
    • Power of network and for green growth – learning from nordic experiences
  • Nordic renewable energy sources
    • Nordic solution for bio energy production
    • Bioenergy from blue biomass
    • Nordic way to increase efficiency of hydro power production
    • Norwegian PV, the benefit to Japan
    • Offshore wind market and technology
  • Nordic experiences in green solutions
    • Agriculture districts as energy supplier
    • Smart grids for a sustainable society
    • Nordic way to increase efficiency of hydro power production
    • Sustainable Stockholm –the greater context
    • Hydrogen as energy carrier in future energy system
    • Geothermal Utilization
  • Panel discussion: sustainable future – the role of communities

A great day of talks and discussions was followed by a reception hosted by the Scandinavian Ambassadors and more great discussions.

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Feed in tariff Japan for renewable energy: approvals drying up?

Feed in tariff Japan for renewable energy are about three times higher than in Germany. Approvals peaked in just before reduction in March 2013.

Feed in tariff Japan for renewable energy are about three times higher than in Germany

Approvals peaked just before the latest feed in tariff reduction

The figures below show an overview of renewable energy sources currently installed and operational in Japan (the majority of which is water power), and also renewable energy projects approved by Japan’s industry ministry METI under the renewable energy feed-in-tariff (FIT) law, which started in July 2012.

Approvals peaked just before March 31, 2013

The figures below clearly show that approvals peaked in March 2013, and dropped off dramatically from April 2013. The reason is most likely the decrease of FIT-tariffs from April 1, 2013: it seems that many applications were rushed in order to take advantage of the higher FIT-tariffs for projects approved up and until March 31, 2013.

Renewable energy capacity approved so far under the FIT-law will increase renewable energy capacity in Japan approximately by 70%, including water power. 94% of renewable energy projects approved under Japan's feed-in-tariff programs are for solar energy generation (see our past blog analyzing FIT approvals).

The figures below show, that almost no fresh generation capacity was approved during March, April and May 2013: the approval of new renewable energy capacity is drying up.

Thus, companies seeking to build solar power stations in Japan based on pref-approved METI-projects, are faced with a fixed pool of approved projects, with almost no additional projects being added until May 2013.

More details in the latest 6th edition of our Renewable Energy Report.

Feed in tariff Japan for renewable energy: Approvals for renewable energy projects under the feed-in tariff law until May 2013 in comparison with installed renewable energy in Japan
Accumulated total generation capacity of approvals for renewable energy projects under the feed-in tariff law until May 2013 in comparison with installed renewable energy in Japan. Approvals seem to have dried up: almost no new capacity has been approved during March-May 2013.
Feed in tariff Japan for renewable energy: Figure shows solar energy projects approved by Japan's Industry Ministry METI under the renewable energy FIT law.
Figure shows the accumulated generation capacity of solar energy projects approved by Japan’s Industry Ministry METI under the renewable energy FIT law. Approvals seem to have dried up: almost no new capacity has been approved during March-May 2013.
Feed in tariff Japan for renewable energy: Approvals under Japan's renewable energy feed-in-tariff law per month
Approvals under Japan’s renewable energy feed-in-tariff law per month. Figure shows that approved generation capacity drops to a low level after March 2013 – the most likely explanation for the dramatic drop of approvals after March 2013 is the reduction of FIT-tariffs from April 1, 2013: it looks likely that many applications were rushed to meet with the higher FIT tariffs available for projects granted at the higher rates up to March 31, 2013 (42 yen/kWh in case of large scale solar)

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Japan energy – myths versus reality, mantra versus smart

Gerhard Fasol at Stockholm School of Economics

A lecture a the Embassy of Sweden for the Stockholm School of Economics

European Institute for Japanese Studies EIJS

Gerhard Fasol "Japan energy - myths versus reality, mantra versus smart" Embassy of Sweden
Gerhard Fasol “Japan energy – myths versus reality, mantra versus smart” Embassy of Sweden

Outline of the lecture:

  • Energy and DNA
  • Energy and Physics, why you need to understand physics to understand energy
  • Ludwig Boltzmann’s tools and laws to work with energy
  • Myth versus reality, mantra versus smart – psychology of judgment and decision making
  • Parliamentary commission results: “regulatory capture” caused the Fukushima nuclear accident
  • History: Japan’s energy architecture frozen since 1952
  • Primary energy: 96% imported
  • Why Japan pays so much for LNG
  • Electricity architecture and liberalization
  • renewable energy
  • Future: where do we go from here?

Thank you to all those who attended the event “Japan’s energy – myths vs reality” at the Embassy of Sweden – an event organized by the European Institute for Japanese Studies of the Stockholm School of Economics.

We had about 120 registrations for 100 seats in the Alfred Nobel Auditorium of the Embassy of Sweden – participants included an official from Japan’s Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office, Officials from several Embassies including the Swedish, US, Norwegian, Swiss, Hungarian and more Embassy, executives from Japanese and European telecom and energy companies, including also several independent power producers (IPPs), legal professionals, and groups of students and MBA students from Tokyo University, Hitotsubashi University and others.

We had very vivid discussion, and continued the discussions over nijikai.

You can view the handouts on slideshare here:

Detailed data, statistics and analysis of Japan’s energy markets:

All the data of the talk are from our reports on Japan’s energy sector:

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94% of renewable energy projects approved under Japan’s feed-in-tariff programs are for solar energy generation

Renewable energy Japan: research report (pdf) on Japan's solar, onshore and offshore wind, geothermal, water, biomass electricity generation markets

Japan’s feed in tariff for renewable energy

Almost all projects are for solar energy

Feed-in-tariffs for renewable energy where introduced in two stages in Japan. Large scale introduction of feed-in-tariffs (FIT) started with the Law entitled “Special measures concerning renewable energy electric power procurement by operators of electrical utilities law” which came into force on July 1, 2012. However, subsidies and feed-in-tariffs were already in place earlier for residential solar (mostly on roof-tops of private homes). Projects approved under the FIT program of July 1, 2012 amount to an increase of 41% in nominal renewable electrical generation capacity. Feed-in-tariffs however are not the whole story, because there are also programs for financial support, special finance arrangements, and tax benefits, and other support programs.

Read more detail below, or purchase our report on Japan’s renewable energy sector for more detail data and analysis.

Renewable energy projects approved under Japan
Renewable energy projects approved under Japan’s feed-in-tariff program increased renewable energy generation capacity by 41.4% sofar

Under the law feed-in-tariffs are periodically reviewed and adjusted. In fact, feed-in-tariffs for solar energy have already been reduced by about 10% this year and are likely to be decreased further next year. For some types of feed-in-tariffs however, increases are under discussions – thus the FIT-tariffs for off-shore wind maybe increased in the future.

Since feed-in-tariffs for solar are set for a period of 20 years, and are decreased periodically, there is great incentive to start solar installations as early as possible, in fact some Mega-Solar plants were switched on on July 1, 2012 to use every possible day. Currently there is a rush of solar operators starting up and expanding in Japan – exactly the effect the Government had intended by setting high feed-in-tariffs.

Project approvals under Japan
Project approvals under Japan’s feed-in-tariff program for renewable energy are 93.8% for solar plants

The renewable energy mix approved under the FIT program is very different to Japan’s traditional renewable energy mix, which was predominantly large scale water power plants

Prior to the introduction of feed-in-tariffs, renewable energy in Japan was predominantly large scale (greater than 1 MegaWatt) water power
Prior to the introduction of feed-in-tariffs, renewable energy in Japan was predominantly large scale (greater than 1 MegaWatt) water power.

Read detailed statistical data for installed renewable capacity and electricity generation and analysis in our report on Japan’s renewable energy sector – click here.

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Growth in Japan: the SoftBank group

SoftBank and Masayoshi Son

SoftBank gaining market share in Japan

SoftBank market cap catching up with Docomo

Mobile subscription data released last week show, that the SoftBank group continues to gain market share while incumbent NTT-docomo continues to lose market share – an upward trend for SoftBank, and a downward trend for NTT-docomo essentially unbroken since SoftBank acquired Vodafone-Japan and succeeded with the turn-round.

SoftBank’s market cap has also steadily increased recently and is now close to NTT-docomo’s, exceeding it on some days:

operator || Market Cap (May 10, 2013)

  • NTT-docomo || YEN 6945 billion (US$ 68 billion)
  • SoftBank || YEN 6688 billion (US$ 66 billion)
  • KDDI || YEN 4162 billion (US$ 41 billion)
SoftBank group exceeds 40 million mobile subscriptions
SoftBank group exceeds 40 million mobile subscriptions

Bringing eMobile and PHS operator Willcom under its group umbrella, and by creating the new operator Wireless City Planning (WCP), Softbank group subscription numbers now exceed 40 million, and have overtaken KDDI

PHS operator Willcom joins the SoftBank group

PHS operator Willcom registered for bankruptcy administration essentially because of the high investments in upgrading the legacy PHS network infrastructure, and is currently in corporate reconstruction with SoftBank as the reconstruction sponsor.

Wireless City Planning (WCP) is a wireless operator owned partially by Advantage Partners and SoftBank and other investors, and representing the next generation network Willcom hoped – but could not afford – to develop.

While negotiating the SPRINT acquisition, SoftBank tricks out KDDI to take control of eMobile

While Masayoshi Son was secretly negotiating his offer for SPRINT, he discovered that KDDI was in negotiations to acquire new entrant eMobile. While continuing the SPRINT negotiations, he was a faster decision maker than KDDI, and could win the eMobile acquisition right under the eyes of KDDI.

Since a few weeks ago, iPhones on SoftBank‘s network automatically log into both SoftBank’s and eMobile‘s LTE radio networks, greatly enhancing data transmission rates and coverage.

More in our report on Japan’s telecommunications sector

Softbank and Renewable Energy

Softbank recently also entered the renewable energy business. Read more about Softbank’s renewable energy business in our Renewable energy report (our work on Japan’s energy sector is referenced in IEEE-Spectrum here).

Learn more about SoftBank, Masayoshi Son, and his 30/300 year vision for SoftBank

Report on “SoftBank today and 300 year vision” (approx 120 page, pdf file)
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Masayoshi Son: “I am a man – and I want to be Number 1”

Source iPhone 3G Masayoshi Son Masaru Kamikura

SoftBank aims for global No. 1 position…acquiring SPRINT on the way to the top

SoftBank: towards global No. 1 with a 300 year vision

To understand SoftBank, and the planned SPRINT acquisition, you need to understand Masayoshi Son – and Masayoshi Son says: “I am a man – and I want to be Number 1”. SoftBank announced FY2012 financial results a few days ago – read below and in our SoftBank-report for analysis, but lets first look at Masayoshi Son.

Yes, Masayoshi Son threatened the Japanese Telecomms and Postal Ministry to set himself on fire inside the Ministry

A few years ago, the Chief-Editor of BusinessWeek visited Japan to interview Masayoshi Son, and the night before the interview over dinner he asked me to suggest interview questions. I suggested to ask if it is true that Masayoshi Son threatened to set himself on fire inside Japan’s Government Ministry for Telecommunications if he is again refused the telecommunications license he needed to build a telecommunications business. Masayoshi Son’s answer: “yes, its true, I threatened to set myself on fire inside the Ministry – but I did not bring any fuel along into the Ministry”. This story shows Masayoshi Son’s passion and extreme determination – and my suggestion became the headline of the article in BusinessWeek – and can still be found online here.

Faced with such passion and determination, Vodafone never had a chance in Japan – can you imagine the Chairman of Vodafone coming over from London to Tokyo to threaten to set himself on fire inside Japan’s telecommunications ministry? Not to mention the demanding customers: several times I personally saw complaining Japanese customers shout down Japanese Vodafone-staffers until these burst into tears and had to be consoled by Vodafone-coworkers… unbelievable, but true.
Japan can be tough for foreign companies…

BusinessWeek: “Apple would never talk to a “small fry” like SoftBank”. Really?

Around the same time, I had to ask BusinessWeek to print a correction to BusinessWeek’s statement, that Apple would never talk to a “small fry” like SoftBank – read the correction here. Well, Apple did talk to the “small fry” SoftBank – and as a result the iPhone is the best-selling mobile phones for two years in a row, and SoftBank is on the way now to become No. 1 in Japan. Read here about a Press Conference discussing the original iPhone introduction by SoftBank to Japan.

SoftBank on the way to US$ 10 billion annual operating profits
SoftBank on the way to US$ 10 billion annual operating profits (Source: our Report on Japan’s telecom sector)

SoftBank aims for global No. 1 position: Japan’s most successful venture start-up – with a 30 year and a 300 year plan

SoftBank had already received a spectrum license and had intended to build up a mobile phone network from zero, when Masayoshi Son grasped the opportunity to acquire Vodafone’s struggling Japan operations – the former Japan-Telecom and J-Phone. Almost overnight Masayoshi Son arranged US$ 15 Billion in loans to fund the acquisition.

The acquisition was announced on Friday March 17, 2006, and the following Monday, Masayoshi Son moved all the remaining staff (minus most expatriates) from the Vodafone-Atago-office to Softbank’s offices in Shiodome, and shut down the Atago-offices to make a clear break. It took Masayoshi Son only a few months until it was clear that the turn-round will be successful. And now with the planned SPRINT acquisition, Softbank is on track to target global No. 1 position.

Softbank and Renewable Energy

Softbank recently also entered the renewable energy business. Read more about Softbank’s renewable energy business in our Renewable energy report (our work on Japan’s energy sector is referenced in IEEE-Spectrum here and here in The Economist).

SoftBank aims for global No. 1 position: Learn more about SoftBank, Masayoshi Son, and his 30/300 year vision for SoftBank

Report on “SoftBank today and 300 year vision” (approx 120 page, pdf file)
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The photograph of Masayoshi Son is used under Creative Commons license according to Wikipedia.
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Description English: Masayoshi Son on July 11, 2008
Date 11 July 2008, 12:11:02
Source iPhone 3G Masayoshi Son Masaru Kamikura (http://www.flickr.com/photos/kamikura/2658524938/)
Author Masaru Kamikura (http://www.flickr.com/people/20119192@N00) from Japan
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Japan ought to be heaven for renewable energy (The Economist)

Japan’s new energy policy – Gerhard Fasol interview by The Economist

Industry Ministry METI announces renewable energy sources admitted to the feed-in-tariff program

Reversing the decline of renewable energy in Japan

A few days ago Japan’s industry ministry METI announced the most recent data on renewable energy sources in Japan admitted under the feed-in-tariff (FIT) regulations introduced on July 1, 2012. We have updated our report on “Renewable energy in Japan” to take account of these most recent data – read a short summary in this newsletter below.

Read an article on Japan’s electricity sector in The Economist here, where we helped a little.

Japan added 23% to renewable electricity generation since introduction of FIT
Japan added 23% to renewable electricity generation since introduction of FIT

Feed-In-Tariffs for renewables reverse Japan’s trend of decreasing contributions from renewable energy sources

As our previous newsletter of March 26, 2013 has shown (and as shown in more detail in our renewable energy report), the contribution of renewable energy sources to Japan’s energy mix has dropped from around 25% in the 1970s to around 10% recently.

Since the introduction of the feed-in-tariffs of July 2012, the installed capacity for renewable electricity generation in Japan has increased by about 23% if hydropower is included, and by about 70% if hydropower is excluded.

Since solar plants are quickest to install, and the permission process is by far the easiest, about 91% of renewable electricity installations permitted under the FIT program by METI are for solar electricity, while only 9% are for other sources such as wind or bio-mass.

Wind, hydro and geo-thermal installations require a lengthy planning, permission, environmental impact process, and far longer construction phase, so that the impact of the FIT program will be seen only in a few years time.

126% were added to Japan
126% were added to Japan’s solar electrical generation capacity since July 2012

Solar electricity generation capacity more than doubled due to FIT

Solar electricity generation capacity increased by 126% since July 2012 due to the introduction of new feed-in-tariffs and other regulations promoting solar energy. Note that previous to July 2012, about 83% of Japan’s solar electricity generation capacity was residential, while only 17% were industrial solar installations.

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Japan to reverse decline of renewable energy – Renewables declined from 25% to 10%

Renewable energy Japan: research report (pdf) on Japan's solar, onshore and offshore wind, geothermal, water, biomass electricity generation markets

Japan’s renewable energy generation is overwhelmingly water power

Japan to reverse decline of renewable energy. The ratio of renewable power generation has decreased from 25% of total electricity generation in 1970 to 10% today. Extremely aggressive feed-in tariffs (FIT) for renewable energy introduced in July 2012 are showing first modest results to reverse this trend – initially solar energy projects dominate FIT projects, since solar projects are fastest to build. Larger projects, such as off-shore wind power, or geo-thermal projects, take a very much longer time to plan and build – on the order of 10 years or longer. More below and in our report on “Renewable energy in Japan”.

Japan
Japan’s electricity generation from renewable sources

Japan’s ratio of electricity generation from renewable resources has dropped from 25% to 10% over the period 1970-2012

Over the years, electricity generation from nuclear and thermal sources has grown much faster than from renewable sources in Japan. As a result, electricity generation from renewable resources has dropped from around 25% in 1970 to around 10% in 2012. In 2012, Japan’s Government and industry associations have announced aggressive plans to reverse this trend

Japan
Japan’s renewable energy is overwhelmingly water power

Water power dominates renewable energy in Japan

This figure shows all electricity generation in Japan from renewable sources: Japan currently relies overwhelmingly on water power for renewable energy, which varies between 5% of total electricity in winter and around 12%-15% of total in summer, with an overall decrease since 2006. The figure shows that other renewable energy sources (wind, solar, geo-thermal and bio-mass) are still in the very early stages of development.
More details in our report on “Renewable energy in Japan”

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Japan’s energy foxtrot: Two steps forward one step back

Japan energy and electricity sector

Two steps forward one step back:

describes a frog struggling to climb out of a well, slipping back one step on the ladder for each two steps upwards out of the well

Before the Fukushima disaster, Japan’s energy policy, strategy and execution were essentially decided behind closed doors by a small group of (about 100) Japanese people, and while European countries, Canada, USA experimented with electricity liberalization, Japan’s electricity industry structure went unchanged for a very very long time with a rigid top-down structure. However with the Fukushima disaster, Japan’s energy landscape has been brought onto the world stage, catching global attention for the first time.

Two steps forward (actually much more than two steps): Last Friday, September 14, 2012, Japan’s Cabinet released Japan’s new “Innovative Energy and Environmental Strategy”. We have analyzed the full Japanese text of this strategy paper, and you can find a summary on pages 5-23 in our “Japan Electrical Energy Landscape” report.

Most English language press reports focus only on the first few pages which describe a plan to phase out nuclear energy in Japan over the next 30-40 years. However this Government paper contains many other policy measures to reform Japan’s electricity industry and to completely change the principles of Japan’s energy landscape – steps which are long overdue, and where Japan has fallen behind most other advanced countries, because pre-Fukushima, Japan’s electricity industry was functioning “too well” – although at very elevated prices (for detailed analysis, read our report).

The strategy plan announced on September 14, 2012 has not yet created any irreversible facts – although two irreversible facts could soon be implemented: the Government announced a few days ago, that 3 nuclear power reactors should be decommissioned under the new 40-year-limit-rule, Tsuruga’s No 1 reactor (started March 1970), and Mihama’s No. 1 (started Nov 1970) and No. 2 reactors (started July 1972).

One step back: Sept. 19, the Cabinet released a “Kakugikettei” (Cabinet Decision) which is 4 and 1/2 lines long, which says:

We will carry out our energy and environmental policy based on the “Innovative Energy and Environmental Strategy” as decided by the Energy and Environment Council on Sept 14, however we will hold responsible discussions with concerned self-governing regional bodies of Japan and with concerned international organizations, and we will continuously and flexibly verify and adjust our policy. (Kakugikettei, Cabinet decision of Sept 19, 2012, our unofficial translation from bureaucratic official complex Japanese into simplified English, attempting to keep the same meaning).

Note, that this “step back” is not uniquely Japanese: Sweden decided in the 1980s to go zero-nuclear with a Parliament approved schedule, and Sweden’s parliament reversed the earlier zero-nuclear decision, and went back to continue nuclear power in 2010 and renewing or building new nuclear power stations.

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Japan’s new energy strategy: much more than nuclear exit

Japan's energy sector

Japan’s Cabinet released Japan’s new “Innovative Energy and Environmental Strategy”

Japan’s new energy strategy

Last Friday, September 14, 2012, Japan’s Cabinet released Japan’s new “Innovative Energy and Environmental Strategy”, which the Cabinet is required to produce by law, and which actually contains much more than the plan to work towards a future nuclear power free society.

We have analyzed the full official “Innovative Energy and Environmental Strategy” in the original Japanese version, and we have prepared a 19 page English language summary which you can find on pages 5-23 of our “Japan Electrical Energy Landscape” report

Most English language press reports have focused on the three principles to work towards a nuclear free society

  1. strictly limit the operation of nuclear power plants to 40 years age
  2. restart those nuclear power plants, where the safety has been assured by the Nuclear Safety Commission
  3. no new construction or expansion of nuclear power stations

These principles – if maintained – may lead to the last nuclear power station in Japan to be switched off around 2052, ie about 40 years from now.

However, Japan’s new energy strategy framework paper contains much more

  • five policy packages concerning: the nuclear fuel cycle, human resources and technology development, cooperation with the global community, regional measures, the nuclear industry system and system for compensation of damages
  • measures for reducing electricity and energy consumption with targets until 2030 for two different economic growth scenarios
  • measures for promoting investment in renewable energy, with renewable energy generation targets until 2030
  • targets for electricity cogeneration until 2030
  • electricity power system reform, including unbundling of generation, transport and retail with the promotion of vibrant electricity markets
  • opening, strengthening and neutral electricity grid network, fair and accessible to all electricity producers
  • and most of all, a planned transition from passive electricity bill paying consumers to aware and active market participants who as much as possible generate their own electricity, and who instead of paying electricity bills, earn money from electricity they generate

In particular, the strategy plan states explicitly:

“…. it is indispensable, that electricity grid networks can be used by anyone, and to have competitive electricity markets”.

When trying to predict the far future, whether Japan will actually go completely non-nuclear or not, keep in mind that Sweden has decided to go non-nuclear in the 1980s, and has reversed this decision around 2010.

Currently only two of Japan’s remaining 50 nuclear reactors are in operation. It will be interesting to see if and when the safety of additional reactors are approved, and how rapidly the announcement dramatic deregulation and structural reform of Japan’s electricity system will be implemented, and how much of the announced policy steps might be reversed – or accelerated – by future Governments.

The strategy plan announced on September 14, 2012 has not yet created any irreversible facts.
Subscribe to our report series on Japan’s electricity industry landscape and our report on renewable energy in Japan.

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Joe Oliver: Briefing the Minister for Energy and Natural Resources of Canada

Joe Oliver, Minister for Energy and Natural Resources of Canada

Joe Oliver, Minister for Energy and Natural Resources of Canada

Was asked today to be one of a group of about 5 Japanese experts to brief the Minister for Energy and Natural Resources of Canada, Mr Joe Oliver. We were asked to keep the conversation off-the-record, so I can’t write about the meeting.

Minister Oliver visited Japan leading a delegation of about 100 Canadian Energy sector leaders, CEOs, Government Officials, and the confidential briefing and discussion about Japan’s energy sector among a small group of about 5 Japanese experts, the Ambassador and Minister Oliver, was followed by a large lunch with about 100 Japanese and Canadian energy leaders and CEOs.

Presentation was based on our report on Japan’s energy sector.

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Mr Joe Oliver photograph image credits:
Author: Rocco Rossi
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Japan energy dilemma

Japan's energy sector

Japanese law requires the government to have an energy strategy plan in place

Keep nuclear power off – or restart nuclear?

Japan’s current energy strategy plan provides for nuclear power to provide 30% of the electricity, rising to 50% in a few years by building additional nuclear power stations.

However, contrary to the current strategy plan the figure below shows, that Japan essentially switched off all nuclear power over the last year, with 2 exceptions.

A new energy strategy plan is delayed, but could be announced in the next few days. The Cabinet is in a dilemma to decide between the interests of the pro-nuclear business association Keidanren and the pro-nuclear electrical industry and considerable anti-nuclear movements in the general (voting) population.

One major problem is that Japan’s energy architecture and electricity industry is regulated by laws and regulations established in 1952. Essentially, Japan’s energy and electricity architecture has been frozen in 1952, and has not been changed until the Fukushima nuclear accident now forces change. The contribution of “new” renewable energy to Japan’s energy mix is so minute (except for water power), that it would be too small to be seen on the figures below. Our Japan-Energy report explains the major issues facing Japan’s energy architecture and its structure.

Japan’s energy peak is in summer (because energy consumption in Japan for air conditioning in summer is higher than for heating in winter), there were no black-outs, or brown-outs – how did Japan manage successfully despite the sudden unplanned exit from nuclear power? Read below…

How did Japan cope with the sudden exit from nuclear power?

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster Japan effectively stopped nuclear power generation. There are no black-outs - how could Japan manage?
After the Fukushima nuclear disaster Japan effectively stopped nuclear power generation. There are no black-outs – how could Japan manage?
Japan's survived by reducing summer peaks, and by increasing traditional caloric power production
Japan’s survived by reducing summer peaks, and by increasing traditional caloric power production

How did Japan cope with the sudden shut-down of nuclear power?

Japan’s peak power consumption is in summer, all nuclear power (with 2 exceptions) was switched off since this spring, and there were no black-outs, no brown-outs, and no major problems. How did Japan achieve this?

As the lower figure shows, traditional caloric energy production was increased by installing new power plants, and by bringing back old caloric power plants which had already been switched off, and by reducing the summer peak compared to recent years through energy savings. It has been estimated that the additional costs for imported fuel are on the order of US$ 40 billion.

Expect Japan’s new national energy strategy plan to be announced in the next few days.

Japan’s energy architecture is maybe a victim of its pre-Fukushima success: because Japan’s electricity supply was working so well, nobody felt motivated enough to change the existing monopolies, grid, energy mix, or to develop renewable energies. More in our Japan-energy report.

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