More and more Japanese cities are signing up to the government’s National Resilience Programme, with decentralized renewable energy and microgrids coming more into favour.

The country was moved to focus more on city resiliency after the disastrous 2011 earthquake that left many urban areas in blackout. The result is more cities have a resilient model of generating and storing energy where it is used.
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The Programme offers 3.72 trillion yen ($33.32bn) in funding each fiscal year to be distributed to local communities seeking to become more self-reliant and locally empowered.

“Since Fukushima, there has been a gradual elaboration of policies to realize that kind of local autonomy, local consumption paradigm,” Andrew Dewit, a professor of energy policy at Rikkyo University in Tokyo told Energy Manager website.

“At the time of the Great East Japan earthquake, we couldn’t secure power and had to go through incredible hardships,” said Yusuke Atsumi, a manager at HOPE, a utility created to service this new localized energy model. Under the old system, a “blackout at one area would lead to wide-scale power outages. But the independent distributed microgrid can sustain power even if the surrounding area is having a blackout.”

The city of Higashi Matsushima was particularly badly hit by the disaster, with 75 per cent of homes destroyed and 1100 residents killed. The city constructed microgrids and decentralized renewable power generation that currently allows the city to produce 25 per cent of its power needs without tapping into the main grid. Additionally, the city has installed batteries capable of storing enough energy to run the city for three days without access to the grid.

“We are moving towards a day when we won’t be building large-scale power plants,” said Takao Kashiwagi, renewable energy luminary who serves as head of the New Energy Promotion Council and designed Japan’s first smart city.

“Instead, we will have distributed power systems, where small power supply systems are in place near the consumption areas.” 

The Japanese government is seeking to increase funding for the programme by 24 per cent in the next fiscal year.