The government is considering relaxing regulations on building solar power plants and other renewable energy facilities to promote their use in the country, according to government sources.
A Government Revitalization Unit subpanel tasked with discussing deregulation and system reforms intends to exempt solar power generation plants from acreage restrictions in the Factory Location Law.
The subpanel, chaired by Sumitomo Corp. Chairman Motoyuki Oka, has drawn up a plan to relax regulations in 183 energy-related fields. The Government Revitalization Unit is chaired by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
The reform plan would make it easier to build and promote large-scale solar power generation facilities, known as megasolar plants.
The government intends to approve the plan at a Cabinet meeting by the end of March and take necessary legislative measures, the sources said.
The subpanel has discussed deregulatory measures for encouraging the use of renewable energy since September last year, amid concerns of a prolonged power shortage in the wake of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The deregulation plan covers solar, geothermal and wind power, as well as other renewable energy sources.
The government hopes the measures will encourage the private sector to enter the renewable energy business and help boost the country’s economy.
Currently, the Factory Location Law requires parties wishing to build a solar power plant to submit the plan to relevant local governments if the land on which it is built is more than 9,000 square meters or the facility is greater than 3,000 square meters.
The law also limits the size of a power plant to 50 percent of its land acreage. For instance, a facility built on 9,000 square meters of land should not exceed 4,500 square meters.
If solar plants are exempted from the rules, it would be possible to build larger plants and thereby generate power more efficiently.
Concerning geothermal and wind power generation, the government plans to relax regulations in the Natural Parks Law that restrict the building of renewable energy plants in national parks and quasi-national parks.
Such parks, with their rich natural environment, are seen as suitable sites for geothermal and wind power generation.
The government plans to allow for the construction of power plants in such parks if certain conditions are met.
Concerning hydroelectric power generation, the government intends to relax regulations in the River Law that restrict water intake, to increase the number of small-scale hydroelectric power plants. It also plans to simplify procedures for obtaining water usage rights.
The government also plans to review regulations on the specifications and procurement of next-generation smart meters–which are said to increase energy efficiency–to promote their widespread use.
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