November 14, 2008 / 2:56 PM / 10 years ago

Fragmented Japan power grids need to integrate-IEA

TOKYO, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Japan could cut more greenhouse gas emissions if local electricity grids were better integrated to absorb the volatility of higher supply from renewable energy, Nobuo Tanaka, head of the International Energy Agency said on Friday.

Consolidating fragmented grid networks into a single and more and more powerful one would help the Japan to catch up with its peers in the fight against global warming, he said.

“I think a crucial judgement Japan should take now is to expand the use of alternative (energy) sources by making more powerful grids,” said Tanaka, a former official of Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

Japan, the world’s third biggest consumer of oil, faces increasing pressure to raise its supply of energy from non-polluting sources and cut its rising dependance on coal.

Earlier this week Japan said its greenhouse gas emissions rose to a record high in the year to March, putting the world’s No.5 polluter at risk of an embarrassing failure to achieve its target under the Kyoto Protocol. [ID:nT173861]

Japan lags far behind other rich nations in the use of renewable energy sources, Tanaka told a Tokyo seminar on the path to a low carbon society.

Renewable energy sources, excluding large hydropower plants, account for only 3 percent of Japan’s primary energy supply in the year ended in March, government data showed this week.

The ratio for fossil fuels in total stood at 85 percent.

Relying more on renewable energy and burning less fossil fuels is one of the key solutions to two challenges the world faces in the next decades — a halt to global warming and rising demand threatening shortage of energy supply, Tanaka said.

The IEA, energy advisor to 28 industrialised countries, warned in an annual report this week that the credit crisis increases the risk that investment to expand oil supply will not be fast enough to meet global demand growth. [ID:nLC206922]

“If the government shows a strong will that Japan will contain CO2 emissions, that would help electric power companies to spend more on such investments,” Tanaka told Reuters at the sidelines of the seminar.

“I think consumers who eventually shoulder the costs would understand the consequences,” he added.

Tanaka also said Japan needs a scheme which encourages utilities to improve energy efficiency.

Japan’s power industry has a voluntary target to reduce CO2 emissions to 0.34 kg per kilowatt hour on average over the 2008-2012 period, down 20 percent from the 1990 levels.

But individual companies have no incentive to improve energy efficiency beyond the industry’s average.

Reporting by Risa Maeda

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