Could more Japanese homes turn to energy independence to escape big utilities?

Echoing the situation here in Australia, more homes Japanese homes could end up leaving the grid to avoid purchasing power from utilities, according to a piece in the Japan Times. Key in enabling this shift is the growing prevalence of residential solar system and the rise of home energy-saving and energy-storage devices.

Pro-renewable policies and associated financial incentives in the country have resulted in unprecedented uptake of solar. However, utilities claim that electricity oversupply and lack of transmission infrastructure mean that they must set set limits on the amount of renewable capacity they can accept on their grids, working against the government’s renewables push.

The national government could therefore instead look to foster the development of micro-grids for municipalities, encouraging local areas to become more energy independent. This move would shift focus from the build-out of new capacity to one of efficient use. The Japan Times article points out that, despite all the public discussion on the topics of renewables and nuclear power following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, too little focus has been placed on reducing consumption as part of a solution to the country’s energy crisis.

Although Japan was once the world’s energy-efficiency leader, it has managed to slide into ninth place among the 16 developed nations, and currently has little in the way of the integration of energy efficiency into building codes. A shift to municipality-based grids could result in more of a focus on distributed renewables like solar and energy-efficient homes. The prefecture of Fukushima has already pledged a 100% renewable energy goal for itself by 2040 which will incorporate some of these strategies.

In Australia, many households have similarly increased their energy independence by installing rooftop solar panels as system prices have come down and retail electricity costs have continued to rise. Overall electricity demand in the country has also fallen across the nation in recent years as homes consume less and less power by using more efficient devices. The growing affordability of energy storage devices is only expected to accelerate this trend.

© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd