Last updated in 1997 - Japan is almost destitute of natural resources. Water has been regarded as the one and only resource granted to the people all across the country. Throughout japan's history, the utilization of river flows has been of great importance. In fact, people have built the environment to sustain their own life by using the fertile land fed by plentiful water. About 110 years ago, hydro power was first put to practical use to generate -electricity, and during the first half of this century it expanded at a good pace throughout the country. Hydro electricity has been an important user of Japan's water resources since that time. Local people accepted it with comparatively little resistance, because it generally did not consume the water, and it did not significantly impede other users, especially during the early stages of development.
Stages of Hydropower Development
During the early stages, most hydropower stations were of the run of the river type, because of the low cost of generation and the ease of supplying to scattered communities. Gradually, pondage and reservoir type installations came into being. Subsequently, a number of reservoir type hydropower stations with large dams were planned and completed, aiming at a more effective exploitation of water resources and at the regulation and stabilization of the electricity supply system. Hydropower was positioned as the supplier of base energy in the overall electricity supply structure.
In more-recent years, the growth of the national economy and the accompanying rapid increase in demand, together with the global expansion of fossil fuel trading, have led to hydropower being assigned a secondary role. The primary energy supply moved to an oil-oriented system. At present, further hydropower development is not thought to hold much potential, except for pumped-storage type installations, which are indispensable to cope with fluctuating peak demand. This shift in the role of hydropower is also due to depletion of suitable sites and the resulting higher cost of generation in comparison with thermal power.
Changes in National Energy Policy
The world wide oil crises of the 1970's caused major changes in national energy policy. During that period, the expansion plans for electricity had been mainly based on large scale, high efficiency thermal and nuclear power stations, together with some amount of hydropower, mainly pumped-storage. The electricity sector was dominated by ten privately owned power companies which were responsible for supplying their respective regions. They were supplemented by two corporations: the Electric Power Development Co., and the Japan Atomic Power Co., which sell the electricity from their power stations at the wholesale level. In addition, 34 municipally owned and publicly managed corporations sell the hydropower which they produce.
The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (abbreviated as MITI) is responsible for the electricity sector. It was compelled to work out a new national-energy plan which would establish a long-term supply system. It embraced two main policies: to diversify the energy resources, and to promote the utilization of new and renewable energy resources. At that time, 80% of primary energy and 75% of electricity generation were using imported petroleum.
Hydropower was looked at again, as the most realistic source of renewable energy with a sufficiently matured technology. Furthermore, the concern about global environmental issues re-enforced the necessity of promoting hydropower. For these reasons, the Government encouraged the electric power companies and other corporations to further develop hydropower of all sizes. It may be small-or medium-scale installations, and also upgrading of existing facilities. This may be combined with pumped-storage. The remaining potential sites are not always economical when measured by conventional standards, because almost 60% of the natural resources are already exploited according to a nation-wide government survey. MITI's promotion scheme for hydropower encompasses various concrete measures, including financial assistance to the owners for construction and operation, subsidies to municipalities for installation of public facilities where hydropower stations are constructed and operated, and the like.
The New Energy Foundation
Forming a link in the chain of such programmes, the New Energy Foundation, established in 1980, is mandated to pursue technical and managerial support activities for the power companies and corporations. Moreover, MITI established a committee consisting of scholars, researchers, governors of municipalities, and representatives of related organizations. Their objective was to discuss and establish a substantial policy-of - hydropower promotion. They drew up a public report entitled "Hydropower in the New Century".
Hydropower Capacity and Energy Production
In Japan, the total installed capacity of hydropower as of 1995 is 42,100 MW including 22,300 MW of pumped-storage. The number of power stations is about 1800. Total annual generation is 88.7 TWh including 13.3 TWh by pumped-storage. In the near future, the capacity is expected to expand by 250 MW per year for ordinary hydropower, and 800 MW per year for pumped-storage.
Figures 1 and 2 at the end of this chapter show the generation mix over the last 30 years. Figure 1 shows facilities classified by power source for 9 electric power companies, EPDC, and others. Figure 2 shows the breakdown of power generation by energy source for 9 Electric Power Companies, EPDC, and others.
Legislation and Regulations
The use of water resources is regulated by the "River Law", which ensures the comprehensive utilization of the water resources and the normal maintenance of minimum river flows. It is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Construction, which is in charge of both construction and conservation of national land.
In addition to the use of water for irrigation, the rapid growth of municipal and industrial water requirements, the incorporation of flood control, and also the maintenance of minimum downstream flows, may possibly compete with hydropower development.
In the case of multipurpose projects, the available discharge, the sharing of storage capacity, the allocation of construction cost, the responsibilities for implementation, and the like are negotiated among the related organizations under the control of the ministries.
Needless to say, an environmental impact survey must be carried out in almost all cases of hydropower development (officially above 30 MW). The impact assessment must be disclosed to local residents. Their comments and reactions are considered during a Government review, which is coordinated among the related ministries and agencies.
The Electric Power Source Development Coordination Council, chaired by the prime minister, makes the final decision on behalf of the Government to approve new power projects. However, in reality, the representatives of related ministries, agencies and some non-governmental delegates conduct most of the deliberations.
After passage through the said council, and prior to licensing, the Ministry of Construction and MITI review the development, in light of the River Law and the Electricity Utility Industry Law respectively.
As stated above, the government regulates the activities of the electric utilities to some extent. On the one hand, the Government provides guidance and promotes the national energy policy, and on the other hand, the regulations ensure the security of the facilities and the preservation of public safety and welfare. The Japanese electric power industry has traditionally been privately owned and has been managed as a private enterprise. However, the industry has certain responsibilities since they are a public utility.
At present, apart from pumped-storage, most large scale hydropower sites have already been developed, and no construction of large dams is foreseen. Hence, there is no case where hydropower has attracted wide public attention.
Some multipurpose projects with hydropower as a joint participant have been dormant for many years, but are now being reevaluated due to a change in the social environment. In almost all cases of ordinary hydropower development, the necessary mitigation measures for environmental and social problems are undertaken, based on prior impact assessments and public discussions. By and large this prevents public concerns about new projects.
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