Overview of the 14th “Asia Pacific Forum, Awaji Conference Japan” Forum

Picture Symposium 2013

  • Date:
    Saturday August 3 2013
  • Location:
    Awaji Yumebutai International Conference Center
    (1 Yumebutai, Awaji-shi, Hyogo, Japan)
  • Theme:
    "Energy Security: Where the World Stands and Agenda for Japan"
  • Details:
    • Sachiko Kubota
      (Professor, Graduate School of Intercultural Studies, Kobe University)
    • ○Greeting
    • ○Keynote Proposal
      1) Japan's Energy Strategy
      Hideo Kobayashi (Professor, Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University / Director, Institute of Automotive Parts Industry)
      2) The Future Brought to Us by the Digital Grid
      Rikiya Abe (Project Professor, University of Tokyo / Representative Director, Digital Grid Consortium)
      3) Trend of China's Energy Strategy and Measures toward a Low-Carbon Society
      Li Zhidong (Professor, Dept. of Management and Information System Science, Nagaoka University of Technology)
      4) Energy and Lifestyles
      Shinya Tsuda (Officer, SANYO Electric Co., Ltd. / Director, Technology Policy Promotion Office, R & D Division, Panasonic Corporation)
    • ○Case Study
      “Activities of the Working Group on the Use of Hydrogen Energy in the Platinum Society Network”
      Masaki Ikematsu (Director, Senior Vice President, JX Nippon Research Institute, Ltd. / Deputy Secretary General, Platinum Society Network)
    • ○Working Sessions
      Session1: Energy Strategy Around the World
      Moderator: Tosh Minohara
      (Professor, Graduate School of Law, Kobe University)
      Session2: Japan's Energy Strategy and Related Topics
      Moderator: Yutaka Katayama
      (Professor, Graduate School of International Cooperation Studies, Kobe University)
      Session3: Energy and Lifestyles
      Moderator: Sachiko Kubota
      (Professor, Graduate School of Intercultural Studies, Kobe University)
    • ○General Plenary Session
      Coordinator: Koji Murata (President, Doshisha University)
    • ○Summary & Acknowledgements

      Makoto Iokibe (President, Hyogo Earthquake Memorial 21st Century Research Institute / Former President, National Defence Academy)

The Forum opened with a welcome message by Awaji Conference Representative Director Satoshi Iue and followed with keynote proposals by 4 speakers and case study by a presenter coordinated by Sachiko Kubota, Professor, Graduate School of Intercultural Studies, Kobe University.

After that, participants broke up into 3 sessions where active discussion on selected themes ensured.

The plenary session that followed lunch began with session moderators reporting on the discussion of their respective sessions and was followed by deep discussion by all in attendance, coordinated by Koji Murata, President, Doshisha University. Finally, to close the two days of events, Awaji Conference Executive Director Makoto Iokibe gave a summary of events and made acknowledgements.

Overview of Keynote Proposals
Japan's Energy Strategy
Hideo Kobayashi / Professor, Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University / Director, Institute of Automotive Parts Industry

We have never seen an age when society places more importance on the efficient use of energy and environmental consideration than today. Although discussion on limited energy resources have been repeated after the occurrence of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, these issues have attracted more attention together with the problem of nuclear power generation.

Since energy consumption for automobile use considerably affects the global environment, it is significant to consider Japanese energy strategies with the focus on automobiles and the automobile industry.

By 2030, 30% of automobiles in the world will be possessed by people in Asia. In addition, emerging countries, including Eastern Europe and Southern Europe, will constitute 50% of the entire automobile market. In the markets of such emerging countries, the key factor is low price. To avoid an explosive increase in the number of automobiles that are very inefficient in terms of environmental impact and energy consumption, it is important to consider what should be done by advanced automobile manufacturing countries.

Environmental measures relating to the next-generation automobiles can be divided into the following four types: 1) improving engine and transmission technologies; 2) hybrid vehicles; 3) electric vehicles; and 4) fuel cell vehicles. It is desirable to reflect each market’s characteristics and develop a method to realize energy saving from a wholistic perspective. In Japan, which has a long history of automobile-related technologies and possesses high-level technologies for optimizing the performances of product materials and components, one of the best options is to improve engine and transmission technologies.

As for Japanese companies’ current strategies for eco-friendly automobiles, Toyota and Honda focus on hybrid vehicles, while Nissan and Mitsubishi emphasize electric vehicles. However, it is expected that these companies will go forward to fuel cell vehicles in the future.

The Future Brought to Us by the Digital Grid
Rikiya Abe / Project Professor, University of Tokyo / Representative Director, Digital Grid Consortium

Digitization of information and economic activities has drastically changed our society over just a few decades. Electricity, a major social capital, has spread in the world through a 140-year history. However, it still uses the same traditional analogue technology as the old-fashioned “black telephones”. Will big changes like those that occurred in the fields of information and economics also occur if electricity is “digitized”?

To digitize electricity is to digitize analogue alternating current, rectify it into direct current, and recover it to analogue alternating current, which enables the storage of the energy that is transmitted. This means that it will become possible to achieve a dispersion management using digital grids, rather than the currently employed central control of huge power systems. While such a control system is efficient, there is a risk of damage spreading extensively even if an accident occurs at only one point in the network.

In the “digital grid,” electric power is “identified” like data on the Internet, released from constraints unique to electricity and converted into exchangeable energy goods. The digital grid can strengthen the power distribution system to be a more disaster-resilient mechanism and give the system a hybrid structure with significantly improved energy efficiency.

If it becomes possible to “identify” electric power according to time and power generation sources, new services and new markets might be generated in the near future, causing a significant change not only in advanced countries but also in emerging and developing countries. Currently, 84% of people in the world, namely 1.3 billion people, live in non-electrified communities. Using digital grid routers, it is possible to provide a service selling electricity based on how much power customers need in such communities. My organization would like to change the world in five years.

Trend of China's Energy Strategy and Measures toward a Low-Carbon Society
Li Zhidong / Professor, Dept. of Management and Information System Science, Nagaoka University of Technology

Global society has entered the age of low-carbon competition. China is no exception. The Chinese government presented the target of its voluntary action plan in which the country aims to reduce its CO₂ emission intensity by 40-45% compared to 2005 in 2020, to the United Nations as its international commitment in late January 2010. The National People’s Congress adopted the 12th Five-Year Plan, which guarantees achievement of the target, in March 2011 based on a strategy aiming at profiting by becoming a leader of the low-carbon society rather than arguing against it. In China, due to its low efficiency in energy use, the first emphasis is placed on energy saving, followed by making a shift from a coal-dependent society – 70% of energy consumption depends on coal - and then planting trees to absorb CO2.

The Government is leading the development of a low-carbon system in which people can realize benefits if they contribute to lower carbon emissions and vice versa. The practical measures to achieve this goal fall under three core pillars: 1) Enhancing energy saving and use of non-fossil energy; 2) Securing a stable energy supply; and 3) Developing the low-carbon industry. After the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, China has strengthened its efforts to expand energy-saving activities and use of renewable energy, and has reinforced its initiatives to secure the safety of nuclear power generation, such as allowing only the latest, third-generation type of nuclear power plants to be constructed.

In terms of developing low-carbon type technologies and fostering related industries, a strong emphasis is placed on next-generation automobiles. Utilizing its huge domestic market, the country is striving to nurture the next-generation automobile industry.

While technological disparities between Japan and China are diminishing, there is much room to expand the scope of cooperation between the two countries in the low-carbon field. Technological cooperation in progress in the nuclear field between China and the US and the development of a new business model that makes the best use of their comparative advantages are critical in realization of cooperative relationship between Japan and China. International cooperation is needed also in designing systems and creating global standards as well as in the promotion of energy security and nuclear safety.

Energy and Lifestyles
Shinya Tsuda / Officer , SANYO Electric Co., Ltd. / Director, Technology Policy Promotion Office, R & D Division, Panasonic Corporation

We usually live our lives without being keenly aware of energy. Energy is, however, closely related to our lifestyles. The fact that the control of energy consumption has become an urgent problem due to the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and also that the “shale gas revolution” has triggered a reduction in fuel prices prove this. Although it is attracting less interest than before due to these events, the risk of global warming caused by the heavy use of fossil fuel is becoming rather more severe because of these issues. Saving energy is an important process, but this is not sufficient to solve major problems.

In addition to energy saving, it is imperative to generate energy, and also to store energy in order to deal with the instability of natural energy and renewable energy. In the future, emphasis will be also placed on how to make good use of generated energy. It will become important to implement smart energy use through efficient energy management and a smart energy system.

It is necessary to realize a “smart community,” by conducting many more energy-saving efforts to prevent the progress of global warming, and promoting smart use of energy at houses, stores, plants, apartment buildings, and ultimately in the entire community. To introduce rechargeable energy successfully, the key lies in the realization of a smart community in which energy is controlled through IT. My company has already launched smart city projects in Tianjin, Dalian, Singapore, and Fujisawa.

Utilizing GENESIS (a global solar power generation network system combining solar batteries and superconductive cables), we would like to ultimately develop a mechanism to solve environmental problems and energy problems.

Overview of Case Study
Activities of the Working Group on the Use of Hydrogen Energy in the Platinum Society Network
Masaki Ikematsu / Director, Senior Vice President, JX Nippon Research Institute, Ltd. / Deputy Secretary General, Platinum Society Network

The Platinum Society Network is an industry-academia-government partnership organization aimed at realizing the “Platinum Plan” that Chair Hiroshi Komiyama has advocated. Considering hydrogen a next-generation clean energy carrier, the Platinum Society Network, together with the Working Group on the Use of Hydrogen Energy, is engaged in examining applications of hydrogen energy to town designing, in order to embody the “Platinum Plan.”

The use of hydrogen energy is particularly beneficial in that it doubles energy efficiency, that hydrogen is clean energy, and use of hydrogen is an efficient means for storing a large amount of power. Based on the assumption that fuel-cell vehicles (FCV) will be placed on the market for general users by 2015, my organizations are currently striving to install approximately 100 hydrogen supply stations in Japan’s four major urban areas.

By establishing a dispersed-energy-network combined with hydrogen, it is possible to realize the best mix of energy. A good example of this is observed in a hydrogen town project in Fukuoka Prefecture. Added to this is the NEDO JHFC3 demonstration station, as well as FCV and fuel-cell bus demonstration research. Outside Japan, there is a plan to fully equip the new Berlin airport with the functions of a hydrogen station and make the airport serve as a hydrogen terminal.

Overview of Working Sessions
Key Points of Session 1: Energy Strategy Around the World
Reported by Tosh Minohara (Professor, Graduate School of Law, Kobe University)

Seen from the point of view of security, how will the shale revolution change U.S. policies relating to the Middle East? To this question, an opinion was stated at this session that the decline in the U.S. dependence on the Middle East for oil would lead to an increasing decline in the country’s commitments to the Middle East, while the pivotal role of Asia should be expanded in the defense of the relevant sea lanes and other issues.

Subsequently, there were discussion on what can be learned from the perspective of the world other than the U.S. Korea is experiencing a torrent of problems in its nuclear power plants, leading to the shutting down of many nuclear power plants. In this sense, the country’s energy situation is very similar to Japan’s. An opinion was presented at the session that while there were some difficulties in the political situation between Japan and Korea, a little more cooperation would be preferred. Another opinion stated that it might be good to connect power transmission lines, utilizing Japanese high technologies, including energy-saving technologies, and to make the connection a symbol of the friendship between Japan and Korea.

As for Chinese energy strategies, there was an opinion at this session that since the country had a huge energy demand, it might be impossible for the country to achieve a nuclear power phase-out. The opinion continued that however, the country had lowered the target figure of 40 million kW, which was set in its plan concerning nuclear power generation, to 16 million kW. The country has also decided to allow only the latest third-generation nuclear power plants to be used. At the same time, there was an opinion regarding shale gas/oil that the extraction required a huge amount of water and the resources were in very deep ground, which would make it necessary to consider energy issues from an approach differing from that of the U.S. for the time being.

Moreover, there was a report that in Sweden, the national decision had been made to continue operating nuclear power plants. Behind the decision was people’s high awareness of the environment; they were concerned about CO2 emissions.

It was indicated at the session that although people discussed extensively how to generate energy and how to save energy, they seldom discussed subsequent developments. As global citizens, it is necessary to consider how to handle spent nuclear fuel and whether it is the right option to bury the waste under the ground until it is processed 10,000 years later.

The session concluded with considering the post-Fukushima situation. While the energy problems after an oil crisis were tackled with cooperation especially among industrial communities, it is necessary to consider the post-Fukushima situation from the perspective of public welfare, as well as on the level of the general public. There was an opinion at the session that a more dynamic movement, such as an increase in grants for home insulation or other purposes, should be generated.

Key Points of Session 2: Japan's Energy Strategy and Related Topics
Reported by Yutaka Katayama (Professor, Graduate School of International Cooperation Studies, Kobe University)

It is often assumed that with rapid technological innovation and an associated paradigm shift, such as in the case of digital grids, it is necessary to make a prompt decision regarding the future of nuclear power plants. It is also assumed that the lack of such a decision will lead to devastating damage to the Japanese nuclear power industry and the Japanese economy. But is there no change in these assumptions? At the session, an opinion was expressed that today’s rapid progress of technologies might enable the securing of a sustainable energy supply, even if all the nuclear power plants in Japan were shut down. It is certain that in the period of the transition to such new technologies as those relating to renewable energy and energy-saving efforts, the dependence on nuclear power generation will be reduced. Although the rate of decline has not been identified clearly, an opinion was presented at the session that it might take at least 10 to 20 years. Another opinion was that if it became possible to “packetize” power, which means that users can purchase power after identifying where the power has come from and what type of electricity it is, there might be a good possibility that a trend toward the use of natural energy would be spurred, depending on how to sell and commercialize such power.

Subsequently, it was indicated that under the current situation, it was difficult to implement the best policy, and that it was necessary to conduct the second or third best policy conceived based on the collection of expertise from experts. Even if such a policy is developed, however, is it acceptable to residents of Fukushima and mothers with children, who have a strong fear and distrust of nuclear power generation? At the session, how to make efforts to gain understanding from such people was discussed. There is a limit in one-sided awareness and recognition programs provided by experts to residents. Actually, some residents are beginning to play the role of the key person who acts between other residents and experts/the administration, in order to obtain information voluntarily and organize consultation events and learning opportunities. There was an opinion at the session that it was necessary to focus on these players, many of whom belong to NPOs, and to support the establishment of networks and systems for them. Another opinion stated that engineers found it difficult to give the general public technical explanations, and that it might be good for persons with a background in the humanities and social sciences to disseminate information in an easy-to-understand way.

There is no immediate solution to the issue of nuclear power generation. Even if it is decided to resume the operation of nuclear power plants with relatively few risks, it will be difficult to gain understanding not only from the relevant local communities, but also from the general public in Japan. This issue must not be left to experts alone. The accident in Fukushima must not be regarded as an event suggesting that everything that the government and experts do is wrong; the issue of nuclear power generation is not a zero sum game. Each citizen must recognize the problem as their own. It was indicated at the session that it might be the steadiest approach, though it might seem indirect and time-consuming, to explain the reality of this problem using a logic and words that anyone could understand, and to disseminate information using easy-to-understand words.

Key Points of Session 3: Energy and Lifestyles
Reported by Sachiko Kubota (Professor, Graduate School of Intercultural Studies, Kobe University)

First, several persons indicated that to change the situation surrounding the Japanese energy problems would lead to the revitalization of the Japanese industries. The weakening of Japanese small-and-medium size enterprises presents a very serious issue to the country’s industrial structure. It was indicated that the development of a new energy strategy might lead to an industrial invigoration. Another opinion stated that energy issues could be discussed from a wide variety of aspects, and a wide variety of solutions would be available, suggesting that small-and-medium size enterprises could be engaged in the processes.

Second, an opinion was presented that Japan needed to make a shift from its pyramid-type, top-down society to a horizontal society with a dispersed system, and that such a trend was actually observed in some aspects. Another opinion held that to realize a horizontal society, it was important to abolish national regulations, and that a great expectation was placed on the Abe administration’s demonstrating a strong leadership to push forward such abolishment. In addition, a question was presented regarding what Japan should overcome to realize a true shift to a horizontal network society. Further discussion concerned a very tough question: to obtain a global perspective, it is necessary to demonstrate strong leadership, and at the same time to promote deregulation.

Third, it was indicated that while many of the recommendations at this session emphasized the perspective from the industrial sector, it was actually necessary to feature the perspective from consumers. To consumers, cost is a very crucial element. There is a strong tendency among them toward new energy as long as it pays. In this regard, it was discussed what was necessary for making new energy acceptable to consumers.

At the same time, there is also a problem among consumers themselves. Too much emphasis is placed on the image of consumers as victims. Japanese consumer organizations and people have not become “citizens” yet in a true sense. Although it is important for citizens to feature a bottom-up perspective and consider society on their own, no such trend leading to a so-called civic campaign is observed in Japan. How to foster people’s awareness was discussed.

Various other opinions were presented regarding cooperation with other sectors, such as the agricultural and forestry industries, as well as regarding energy cost from the perspective of the proximity between one’s home and workplace. In addition to these multifaceted opinions, other opinions were stated concerning the importance of environmental and energy education for young people, and the necessity of making efforts to introduce a wide variety of energy, such as geothermal energy. The session concluded with an opinion that while the realization of an IT smart community was often discussed, it was not certain that people really wanted to live in that type of society. It is desirable to consider an even more basic solution – restoring a recycling-oriented society.

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