New way of living makes smarter use of electricity
With Tohoku municipalities trying to revitalize their economies, one area that Tohoku hopes will drive growth is the so-called smart community.
Smart communities are networks of houses, building and other structures that efficiently produce and consume electricity. The central government sees the promotion of smart communities as a growth sector, and is subsidizing municipalities to build them.
“Electricity and other lifelines were cut off by the quake and tsunami, and we wanted to have our own necessary energy. Then we learned about the government’s (smart community) project, so we applied for it,” said Hiroko Komukai of the section promoting revitalization in the Miyako municipal government in Iwate Prefecture.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry decided in December to subsidize seven municipalities in Tohoku – Miyako and Kitakami in Iwate Prefecture; Yamamoto, Ohira, Ishinomaki and Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture; and Aizuwakamatsu in Fukushima Prefecture – in their smart community projects.
The government push for smart communities follows a global green trend. After the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, energy alternatives to nuclear power have been heavily discussed in Japan and around the world, putting smart community in the spotlight. Japan aims to export the technology and knowhow for controlling electricity usage.
The government does not yet have any specific target for the smart community business, whose original purpose before the disaster was to cut carbon dioxide emissions. But it is expected to grow. Market research company Fuji Keizai estimates the business in Japan will increase by 3.4 times to ¥3.8 trillion in 2020, from ¥1.12 trillion in 2011, while globally the business will expand 2.5-fold to ¥40.6 trillion in 2020 from ¥16.3 trillion in 2011.
“The smart community is one of the most important sectors,” said Yuta Sakaki of the Smart Community Policy Office at the Energy Department of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, a part of METI. “The market is growing and the government will continue to support municipalities to promote it.”