Experts call for assurances in overhaul of energy policy

Energy experts from academic, business and civic organizations urged the government on Monday to attach greater importance to reliability and transparency in re-formulating the nation’s long-term energy policy and supply-and-demand outlook.

The request was made during deliberations of the Coordination Subcommittee of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry’s Advisory Committee for Energy, which was called to action for the first time in a decade to overhaul the governments energy outlook and policy toward 2010.

Resumed sessions of the MITI energy panel follow a government decision last month to revise its energy policy in the wake of mounting public concerns about nuclear power safety, an overall year-on-year decrease in energy consumption in the midst of recession, and Tokyo’s recent failure to renew Arabian Oil Co.’s oil concessions in Saudi Arabia.

Trade chief Takashi Fukaya was quoted in a speech that opened the meeting as asking the panel to search for an ideal one-year energy policy by taking into account the changing circumstances. of energy supply and demand. Specifically, Fukaya asked the panel to consider comprehensive energy-saving measures with an eye on surging consumption at homes and offices, supply-side measures to deal with new energy sources — including nuclear energy, and measures to steadily supply oil and natural gas.

While keeping open the option of setting up an economic security meeting on energy in the future, Fukaya said it would be desirable for the panel to come up with several scenarios of the long-term outlook for energy supply and demand. He also stated that gathering a wide range of opinions would help promote greater public understanding.

Yoichi Kaya, head of the MITI energy coordination subcommittee and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, said the nation must break the cycle in which carbon dioxide emissions increase with economic growth, while pursuing a reliable long-term energy supply-and-demand target.

To this end, Kaya said the panel’s deliberations will center on four aspects: securing a stable energy supply, preserving the environment in accordance with the 1997 U.N. conference on global warming in Kyoto, ensuring fair market competition in line with liberalization in the energy sector and reasonably developing the economy.

Meanwhile, Tetsuya Iida, a senior economist at the Japan Research Institute Ltd. and representative of Green Energy Law Network, urged the state to ensure budgetary and tax measures to promote environment-friendly energy policies.

The 30-member panel will compile a set of reports on the nation’s energy policies, measures concerning energy supply and demand, and re-formulating the long-term supply-and-demand outlook by the summer of 2001.

Pricier gas and light

Japan’s 10 electric power companies and four major gas suppliers said Monday they plan to raise their charges for the July-September period due to higher crude oil prices.

The hikes in utilities charges for the fourth consecutive quarter are in line with a system under which firms review their charges every three months to take into account changes in fuel prices and exchange rates.

While the exact margins of increase will be announced Wednesday, the hikes in electric power charges are estimated to average 68 yen per month for a family of four.

Among the 10 electric power companies, Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to increase charges by an average of 85 yen for a family of four and Kansai Electric Power Co. by 43 yen.