BY TAKAYUKI HAYASHI STAFF WRITER
Hiroya Masuda, former minister of internal affairs and communications (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
Japan should take the lead in building a power grid that extends from Japan through Southeast Asia to Australia, according to a nongovernmental panel of experts chaired by a former communications minister.
Such a broad-area power grid would enable exchanges of renewable energy across national borders and serve as an energy equivalent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement now under discussions, according to the proposal of Nihon Sousei Kaigi (Japan creation council) released on Oct. 7.
"Cross-border cooperation is the most badly needed in the domain of energy," said Hiroya Masuda, a former Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications who heads the group. "Japan (with its technological excellence) can take the initiative."The proposal comes at a time when calls are growing for Japan to end its reliance on nuclear power following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
It recommends, for example, bringing to Japan geothermal power generated in Indonesia and solar cell power from Australia.
According to the draft, governments, enterprises, research institutions and other entities from the participating countries will set up an organization within two years to promote the project.
Power lines will link South Korea, Taiwan and other regions by the mid-2020s, and be extended to Southeast Asian nations and Australia by 2050, according to the draft.
The panel estimates the cost of laying the power lines at 100 million yen ($1.3 million) per kilometer.
The panel has informed Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba about its proposal. It also plans to appeal to relevant ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Masuda said.