A member of Japan’s parliament has said the future of his nation’s industry depends on a “sub-nuclear” society fuelled by combined-cycle gas-fired power plants and distributed energy generation.
Hiroyuki Arai (pictured), a member of the House of Councillors, said in an interview with Russia’s Ria Novosti news service that what he called a sub-nuclear Japan “will change the structure of energy consumption and production and it will not need nuclear power plants.”
“A society that will surpass the need for nuclear energy,” Arai continued, “…will not make the poor live in a dangerous environment for the sake of the well-being of large cities.”
Arai noted that “Japan has technologies that could enable it to raise the efficiency of thermal power plants to 40-50 per cent. These are combined-cycle thermal power stations with very high energy efficiency.”
He added: “We could use the old thermal power stations while simultaneously creating power plants that would run on liquefied natural gas. In this sense, we really hope for the supply of gas from Russia.”
In addition, Arai proposed that Japanese households could produce their own power using so-called ene-farms (energy farms), or residential micro-combined heat and power (CHP) systems using fuel cells.
The ene-farm scheme has been subsidized in Japan since 2009. Subsidies have been reduced each year with the aim of removing them completely by 2015. According to Arai, while an ene-farm can provide around 20 per cent of an average household’s energy demand, it is still unaffordable for most families at around $15,000 per system.
An ene-farm home fuel cell for condominiums has been marketed by Tokyo Gas since April of this year. The product is the first commercialized fuel cell in the world, Tokyo Gas said, where the fuel cell unit, hot water unit and backup heat source can all be stored in the condominium’s pipe shaft.
The utility claims that its ene-farm unit (pictured) reduces primary energy use by around 37 per cent and CO2 emissions by 49 per cent. Tokyo Gas aims to sell around 500 units before the end of Japan’s fiscal year (March 2015).