Geothermal energy in Japan: Storm in a hot tub
The Economist -- Apr 05

As anyone who has been to Japan knows, there are strict rules about bathing in onsen, or hot springs. Bodies must be scrubbed beforehand, swimming trunks are banned and tattoos are taboo. The industry's jurisdiction extends far beyond the tub, however. For decades, onsen owners have stifled development of a huge potential source of clean energy: geothermal power. They argue that the tapping of heated aquifers in volcanic Japan will drain the onsen dry, increase pollution and ruin a cherished form of relaxation. With Japan on the verge of running out of nuclear power, however, the demand for new sources of energy is becoming harder to resist.

Three Japanese companies-Toshiba, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Fuji Electric-control more than half of the global market for geothermal turbines, yet Japan itself gets a mere 0.3% of its energy, or 537 megawatts, from its own steam. The industry's promoters say that Japan sits on about 20,000 MW of geothermal energy, or the equivalent of 20 nuclear reactors, though not all of this could be developed. Since the disaster at Fukushima last year, all but one of the nation's 54 nuclear reactors are now temporarily suspended, reducing Japan's power-generating capacity by about a third. That has accelerated the search for alternatives.

In July the government is set to introduce a feed-in tariff that will force the ten regional electricity monopolies to buy renewable energy at above-market rates-though a price has not yet been set. At the end of March the environment ministry said it would abolish guidelines that restrict geothermal development in some national parks. Companies including Idemitsu, a refiner, have quickly announced plans to build a geothermal plant in the mountains of Fukushima prefecture, which is famous for its hot springs. But they expect it will take ten years before they start generating electricity.

Experts say the long time lag reflects some of the difficulties of developing new business in Japan.

News source: The Economist

Apr 24 Obama greeted by Emperor and Empress
Japan's Emperor and Empress have greeted US President Barack Obama in a welcome ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. (NHK )
Apr 24 Visitors to Japan hits record 1.05 million in March
The estimated number of visitors to Japan in March jumped 22.6 pct from a year earlier to 1,050,500, a record monthly high, the Japan National Tourism Organization said Wednesday. (Jiji Press )
Apr 24 Obama enjoys best sushi ever: Abe
Shortly after arriving in Tokyo Wednesday night, U.S. President Barack Obama enjoyed an informal dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a top-rated sushi restaurant in the posh Ginza shopping district. (Jiji Press )
Apr 24 Justin Bieber apologizes for Japan war shrine trip
Justin Bieber apologized Wednesday to those he offended by visiting a Japanese war shrine, saying he thought it was a beautiful site and only a place of prayer. (AP )
Apr 23 National school exams held
The education ministry conducted national academic achievement tests on Tuesday for all final-year students at primary and middle schools across the country. About 2.24 million students at about 30,000 schools took Japanese and mathematics exams. (The Japan News )
Apr 24 Woman wrongly arrested by Osaka Pref police; 9th wrongful arrest since last July
Police in Neyagawa, Osaka Prefecture, admitted Wednesday that they mistakenly arrested a woman in her 20s over her suspected involvement in a blackmail case which occurred in January of this year. (Japan Today )
Apr 24 Bigger damages ordered over suicide of Japan MSDF crewman
Tokyo High Court ordered the state and a former Maritime Self-Defense Force officer on Wednesday to pay 73 million yen in compensation for the 2004 suicide of a junior crewman of an MSDF destroyer after bullying by the officer. (Jiji Press )
Apr 23 100,000 apply to participate in first public tours of parts of Imperial Palace
The Imperial Household Agency announced this week that it has received over 100,000 applications from individuals seeking to participate in the first ever public opening of parts of the Imperial Palace. (Japan Today )
Apr 23 79-year-old woman stabbed to death in Shizuoka home
Police in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, said Tuesday that a 79-year-old woman was stabbed to death at her home. (Japan Today )
Apr 22 Ex-judge installed camera in women's toilet at Ministry of Justice
A former judge from the Ministry of Justice is alleged to have installed a camera inside a women's toilet inside a ministry building in Kasumigaseki, people with knowledge of the matter announced on Monday, reports Sports Nippon (Apr. 22). (Tokyo Reporter )
Apr 22 Hunters kill bear after it attacks man in Niigata
Hunters shot and killed a bear on Monday after it attacked a man in Murakami, Niigata Prefecture. (Japan Today )
Apr 21 Daughter arrested for killing 83-year-old mother with kettle
Police in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, said Monday they have arrested a 55-year-old woman for fatally beating her 83-year-old mother with a kettle at their home. (Japan Today )
Apr 21 Justin Bieber 'in a happy place,' hits Tokyo with mom Pattie Mallette
Justin Bieber flies to Tokyo, Japan, with mom Pattie Mallette, leaving his legal woes, Drake Bell drama and the debate on the deportation petition behind. (inquisitr.com )
Apr 21 Man stabs ex-girlfriend, her parents in their home in Aichi
Police in Fuso, Aichi Prefecture, said Sunday they have arrested an unemployed 38-year-old man for attempted murder after he broke into the home of his ex-girlfriend and stabbed her and her parents. (Japan Today )
Apr 21 Man jumps to death after fatally stabbing father
Police in Tokyo said that a 46-year-old man apparently jumped to his death after fatally stabbing his father at their condominium in Tokyo's Koto Ward on Sunday morning. (Japan Today )