Bloomberg News

Japan Eases Rules for Geothermal-Power Plants at National Parks

March 27, 2012

Japan has revised rules for geothermal power projects in national parks, where more than 80 percent of the nation’s resources lie, as it seeks to increase the amount of energy that originates from cleaner sources.

The Ministry of Environment has expanded areas where developers may conduct surveys and build geothermal power plants in national parks, it said in a statement today.

The move comes as Japan explores ways to increase the use of clean energy after last year’s Fukushima nuclear accident. The country has only one of its 54 nuclear reactors operating and no units that have been idled for safety checks since the disaster have restarted.

“Keeping a balance between geothermal power and national parks has been a very big issue,” Environment Minister Goshi Hosono said at a press conference today. “We plan to develop geothermal power in earnest as the importance of renewable energy is increasing.”

The ministry will also allow a survey in the most tightly regulated zones if a there is a need for a study spanning wider areas to develop geothermal power outside the zones, according to the statement. It will expand areas where drilling and construction of a plant may be permitted if a project meets government conditions, according to the statement.

Japan has 537 megawatts of installed geothermal capacity, accounting for 0.2 percent of its total power generation output, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. No new projects of more than 10 megawatts have been developed since 1996, the research agency said.

Japanese refiner Idemitsu Kosan Co. (5019) and oil and gas explorer Inpex Corp. (1605) are considering building a geothermal power plant in Fukushima, Tetsuji Yoshimine, a spokesman for Inpex, said March 23.

To contact the reporters on this story: Chisaki Watanabe in Tokyo at cwatanabe5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net.


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