SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
TSUNODA Eiichi “The 62th SGRA Forum ‘ Can Renewable Energy Change the World ? – Moving Beyond ‘ An Inconvenient Truth”
The 62nd SGRA Forum “Can Renewable Energy Change the World – Moving Beyond “An Inconvenient Truth””, a joint session with the APYLP (Asian Pacific Young Leaders Program) and SGRA, was held on February 2, 2019 at the International House of Japan (Roppongi).
＊APYLP is a program organized by the International House of Japan for the purpose of connecting young leaders in the Asia Pacific region.
The theme of this forum was “renewable energy,” an issue which has made rapid progress since COP21 was agreed in 2015 in Paris. The purpose of the forum was to consider the possibility of renewable energy in our societies through considering the rapid progress of the past and its prospects in the future from the viewpoints of international politics and economy, environmental innovation, energy and community.
＊COP：Conference of the Parties
“parties”：UNFCCC(The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) (気候変動枠組条約締約国会議)
Summaries of the research papers and key-note speeches can be found below. .
We started our morning session with an opening address by Ms. Junko Imanishi (Representative of SGRA), introduced by the moderator, Sonja Dale (Adjunct Professor, Hitotsubashi University), who was delighted with the full house of over 120 people.
Three Raccoons presented about their research in the first session.
Adjunct Professor Park Joonui (George Mason University) spoke about her research titled ” Renewable Energy in Trade Wars: Solar Power in South Korea’s Energy Mix and the Impact of Protectionism”.
She discussed how the environmental policies under President Moon seem to be too ambitious, how China is monopolizing the market through mass-production as a state policy, and the protectionist stance of the US. She ended her presentation with a warning about the present situation in Korea in which the business of renewable energy is becoming distorted because of the decline in the solar cell industry in Korea, and emphasized the necessity of changing Korean national policy.
The second presentation was made by Professor Gao Weijun, University of Kitakyushu、and was titled “Chinese Policy on Renewable Energy and the Direction of Environmental Improvement”. He surveyed present environmental problems in China and discussed the necessity of change in renewable energy to overcome the serious environmental pollutions at present. Professor Gao introduced large-scale domestic and overseas projects which are being carried out by government initiatives. However, he emphasized that the government should establish meticulous environmental policies in order to avoid favoring big projects.
The third presenter was Associate Professor, Yeh Wen-chang, Shimane University.
His presentation was titled “How low can the cost of solar power go? What tasks lie ahead?” He discussed the many innovative possibilities for reducing generating costs by solar cells, and shared his method of cost calculation for PV (photovoltaics-太陽光発電). He also called for the necessity of innovation in the combined accumulation and generation of electricity.
We had a coffee break in the garden under the spring sunshine. In the second session we heard about the situation in Iitate Village, Fukushima Prefecture. In Iitate, they are trying to promote the generation of renewable energy for regional industries. The purpose of this attempt was to gain energy independence and restore the environment after the Fukushima nuclear power incident. Mr. Kenta Satoh, a member of the Iitate Village Assembly, looked back at the damage caused by the incident on March 11, 2011 and the experiences of people who had lived as evacuees for seven years up until last year. He explained the meaning and vision of generating renewable energy as a core for the reinvigoration of Iitate Village and as a community development project.
Mr. Kei Kondo, Iitate Power Company, discussed their efforts to generate solar energy in Iitate on a small scale and spoke about the difficulty of increasing their production capacity within regional levels under the present regulations in Japan.
In the afternoon session, we had two keynote speeches and smaller panel discussions. The first key-note speech, titled “Global Shifts in Renewable Energy,” was given by Associate Professor, Llewelyn Hughes from Australian National University,. He gave an overview of the world-wide shift towards low carbon energy and pointed out its necessity for climate change. He explained the Japanese policy for energy which, though promoting low-carbon energy, has no clear guidelines.
The second keynote speaker was Mr. Hans-Josef Fell, President of Energy Watch Group (ex-Member of German Parliament), who gave a talk titled “German Experience of Energiewende and Community Power”. He discussed his experience of community organization by PV business operators in 1994, the first in the world. He also played a role in the establishment of the EEG (Renewable Energy Act) bill in the German Parliament, and has been working for the promotion of renewable energy around the world under the slogan “Renewable Energy 100,” a program which aims at the actualization of renewable energy societies.
After the five presentations and two keynote speeches, we separated into three separate panel sessions – “global shifts/international economy”, “environment/innovation” and “energy and community”.
In this forum, we sought to discuss solutions for problems as well as the possibilities for actualizing renewable energy societies in a single day, and we handled topics from various fields. It was not easy to integrate and assimilate these different fields and findings. I personally thought that we could share, at least, the knowledge of not only the presenters but also all of the participants, and the awareness that there is no turning back in of the global shift towards de-carbonization and renewable energy.
This shift is inevitable.
From the presentations, however, it became clear that this process would not go so smoothly. It also became clear that every country and every field has their own problems to solve. We cannot say that all the questions could be solved.
For example, when we think of climate change and using up natural resources which has been actualized as global warming, shifting to renewable energy (non-carbon energy) would be an urgent issue for all societies on earth. We, as a result of entering big capital enterprises, may be able to change the present global environmental problems by shifting to natural energy from fossil fuel. However, even if we change the source of our power on a large scale, we cannot change the substance of civilization itself, which is supported by mass-production and mass-consumption.
In the panel sessions, the many protests and demonstrations in Japan and Europe were discussed, and the issue of gigantic mega-solar power systems which are destroying the scenery and circumstances of societies. The problems of environmental pollutants which are being discharged in the process of production of solar panels were also discussed, as were other problems such as the introduction of FIT (Feed-in Tariff：(売電の)固定価格買取制度) and the problems it caused for late-comers in entering the market and the effects of FIT on finance in Germany. The necessity of technical innovation in technology for the storage of electricity was also discussed. As a matter of course, I do not think that an issue related to the future of the earth such as this can be solved easily. We should be cautious of haste in discussing issues such as this.
Surely, it is a reality that societies using renewable energy will spread and expand in the world and this trend or wave is only growing. The sub-title of the forum is “moving beyond “An Inconvenient Truth,”” which is the title of the book written by Al Gore, ex-Vice President of the United States, which was written as a cautionary tale about the problem of global warming.
“An Inconvenient Truth” is one which goes against the currents and thoughts of current time, and is not liable to be talked about or hidden.
In the discussion of renewable energy, it became clear that in the Fukushima nuclear power incident, a lot of “inconvenient truths” were being hidden and not talked about.
I hope that many of these “inconvenient truths” will be discussed more openly and with more frequency, and not be hidden nor neglected at the level of citizenship for the purpose of establishing our consensus for spread of renewable energy.
SGRA News in Japanse (Original) on 14th March, 2019
(TSUNODA Eiichi / Secretary General, Atsumi International Foundation)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sonja Dale