Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Japan: Renewable Energy Production to Aid Agricultural, Forestry, and Fishing Villages

(Dec. 18, 2013) The Diet, Japan’s parliament, recently enacted the Act on Promotion of Generating Renewable Energy Harmonized with Healthy Development of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, and it was promulgated on November 22, 2013. (Act No. 81 of 2013 [in Japanese] House of Representatives website [conduct search].) This Act aims to revitalize farming, timber, and fishery villages and create various energy sources by the introduction of renewable energy production in such villages. (Id. art. 1.) Under the Act, renewable energy includes energy derived from solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and biomass sources. (Id. art. 3.)

Especially since the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis caused by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the Japanese government has emphasized the importance of decentralized power generation using renewable energy. In 2012, a “feed-in” tariff system for renewable energy projects began. Under such a system, the government guarantees that electricity companies purchase electricity generated by renewable energy sources. Authorities paid attention to the abundance of renewable energy sources in rural areas and to the role renewable energy projects might play in increasing the rural residents’ incomes. (Food Industry Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Regarding the Summary of the Draft Act on Promotion of Renewable Energy Generation in Farm, Timber and Fishery Villages [in Japanese], Food Industry Affairs Letter, No. 5 of 2012, at 1 (May 2012).)

Similar legislation was submitted to the Diet in 2012, but it was criticized for its lack of a measure on securing fertile land for farming. The Cabinet submitted new, modified legislation at the extraordinary Diet session in the fall of 2013. (Statement of Yasuhiro Ozato, Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Committee Minutes No. 3 of 185th Diet Session [in Japanese] (Nov. 6, 2013).)

Under the 2013 Act, the national government establishes the national basic policy on renewable energy in connection with agriculture, forestry, and fishery. (Act No. 81, art. 4.) Based on this policy, municipalities are to establish detailed plans that may include, for example, designation of areas for renewable energy generation. (Id. art. 5.) In order to involve the related parties in the formulation and implementation of the basic plans, municipalities may establish committees that consist of representatives of the municipalities; renewable energy businesses; farmers, lumberjacks, fishermen, or their business organizations; residents; and technical experts. (Id. art. 6.)

A person who intends to establish a renewable energy generation facility may apply for approval from the municipality. (Id. art. 7 ¶ 1.) The Act enables municipalities to issue one permit that substitutes for various permits under various laws, such as the Farmland Act, the Cattle Business Promotion Act, the Forestry Act, the Natural Park Act, etc. (Id. art. 7 ¶¶ 4 -8, & arts. 9-15.) Municipalities may facilitate the consolidation of abandoned farmland for use for qualified renewable energy businesses, a process that is time consuming under the present system. (Id. art. 16.)