Low Temperature Geothermal Power in Japan

New Horizons for Clean Power Generation from Low Temperature Geothermal Energy

Published: 6 Dec 2017

Renewable power development in Japan has largely been driven by a high demand for energy self-sufficiency, following the post-Fukushima shut down of the country's nuclear fleet, and government 2020 emission reduction targets. Currently, renewable power accounts for approximately 15% of total electricity generation in the country. Hydro and solar power account for 12% due to attractive subsides provided by the government for these technologies. Geothermal power, on the other hand, only contributes a meagre 0.3% of total electricity generation, despite the country possessing the third largest geothermal resource in the world, representing a power generation potential of 23 GW. While the government has been proactive in recent initiatives to identify and promote potential areas for exploration and development, there has not been any significant development of geothermal power in the country in the last decade. However, despite stagnation in development of the technology at medium and high temperatures, increased investment and technological innovation targeting low temperature geothermal power (<120°C), historically used primarily for heating purposes, are expected to significantly increase the addressable market potential for geothermal power and represent a new growth market in the country. Along with technological innovations significantly increasing system efficiencies at low temperatures, additional drivers including, multi-application benefits for hot spring (onsen) owners, attractive feed-in-tariffs and grant financing offered by government, relaxation of development restrictions in national parks, lack of environmental assessment requirements, and improved cooperation at the community level is expected to set up low temperature geothermal power as a potential game changer in the exploitation of the country‚Äôs geothermal potential, and a contributing step toward the establishment of a stable, low emission power industry in the country.

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