Smart power grids and integration of renewables in Japan – Status and activities concerning smart grids implementation and integration of renewable energy sources in Japan

Jensterle, Miha und Maike Venjakob 2019: Smart power grids and integration of renewables in Japan. Status and activities concerning smart grids implementation and integration of renewable energy sources in Japan. Berlin: adelphi/Wuppertal Institut.

Japan, just like Germany, is faced with the trilemma of energy security, economic efficiency and environmental sustainability of its energy supply. Additionally, after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, safety became a further priority. These four focal points are known under the acronym 3E+S. In 2018, the revisions to the Strategic Energy Plan, the country’s central energy strategy document, made Japan’s energy transition targets significantly more ambitious, designating renewables as a "central cornerstone" of Japan’s future energy system.

Japan also faces a unique set of challenges. The aging of society, the degree of urbanisation and the need for resilience against natural disasters are so pronounced that they directly affect the country’s energy policy. One part of Japan’s answer are smart communities, enabled by linking energy infrastructure with information and communication technology (ICT). Changes will, however, go far beyond the technological innovation. The 4th Strategic Energy Plan envisions a “new social system” where smart communities provide “life support services” to citizens. This bottom-up approach to the energy system combined with attempts to integrate an increasing share of variable renewable energy sources constitutes a paradigm shift from the top-down, centralised and vertically integrated Japanese power system of the 20th century.

This study, elaborated by adelphi and Wuppertal Institute for the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy is part of the energy partnership between Germany and Japan. It investigates Japan’s strategic and legislative framework for smart grids and the integration of renewable energy sources, examining their current status and perspectives. It then compares these findings with the situation in Germany, derives recommendations and finally identifies potential areas of cooperation between the two countries.