Among renewable energy advocates in Japan, one often hears the phrase "chisan chissho," or "local production, local consumption." In the past, it referred the promotion of local-level agriculture. But it's now becoming a call to reduce municipalities' reliance on electricity from fossil fuel and nuclear power plants hundreds of kilometers away.

Small hydropower plants represent the local production, local consumption concept perhaps better than any other form of renewable energy.

Unlike the nation's infamous large-scale dams — symbols of pork-barrel politics approved by corrupt Tokyo politicians and bureaucrats and their collusion with huge construction companies — "micro-hydro" plants have an image of being environmentally friendly regional projects that actually benefit their communities.