Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

  • HOME
  • Speaking Out
  • 【#1132】Don’t Use a Tiny Scapegoat to End Renewable Energy Scandal
Tadashi Narabayashi

【#1132】Don’t Use a Tiny Scapegoat to End Renewable Energy Scandal

Tadashi Narabayashi / 2024.04.03 (Wed)

April 1, 2024

While solar and wind power generation has been touted as a safe, clean renewable energy alternative to nuclear power, the deficiency of renewable energy has been recognized worldwide due to resources problems, landslides and environmental destruction, leading to frequent disputes between renewable energy companies and local residents. In such a situation, materials presented at meetings of a renewable energy task force created under the sponsorship of Minister of State for Regulatory Reform Taro Kono were found embedded with a watermark logo showing that they were prepared by China’s state-owned electric power company.

Cabinet Office explanations lacking a sense of crisis

According to the Cabinet Office, documents submitted at the renewable energy task force’s meetings on March 22 and December 25 last year by Mika Ohbayashi, a private sector member of the task force, bore the watermark logo of the State Grid Corporation of China, the largest power grid company in China. The logo was left because Ohbayashi, project manager of the Renewable Energy Institute, used some of the materials given by a participant from the Chinese company in a symposium organized several years ago by the institute, the Cabinet Office said.

“There is no problem with the contents (of the submitted materials),” said Masato Yamada, director for Promotion of Regulatory Reform at the Cabinet Office, at a hastily called press conference on March 25. “We are told that there is no personal or capital relationship between the Renewable Energy Institute and Chinese companies,” he added.

However, the Renewable Energy Institute is working with the State Grid Corporation of China to promote a large-scale international power grid project called “Asia Super Grid,” as advertised actively by the institute’s founder Masayoshi Son who is Chairman and CEO of SoftBank Group Corp. There is no reason why Yamada does not know this. His explanation does not indicate any sense of crisis about the possibility of China dominating power supply in Japan. Materials bearing the same logo have also been presented at panels of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Financial Services Agency.

Lawmakers should investigate the dark side of renewable energy

Minister Kono is known to have once made threatening remarks to senior officials of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy to promote a policy that prioritizes renewable energy. A company owned by Kono’s family has set up a joint venture with a Chinese company to manufacture parts of solar panels. The head of the Chinese company, Chen Yanshun, is an elite member of the Chinese Communist Party. There are concerns that the Kono family’s solar-related business is closely linked to the CCP. Isn’t this a conflict of interest?

“The materials submitted by Ohbayashi are based on PowerPoint presentations made by a Chinese company,” said National Democratic Party leader Yuichiro Tamaki “There is no excuse for it.” Expressing concern that China could take control of Japan’s energy supply, he urged Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to thoroughly investigate the scandal.

As much as 1,000 trillion yen may be required to cover 100% of Japan’s electricity supply with renewable energy. Offshore wind power generation will require a particularly high cost. Most of solar panels and windmills are made in China. The renewable energy levy, which is added to electricity bills for the spread of renewable energy, is forecast eventually to increase to 90 trillion yen. Increases in electricity bills nationwide have already been announced to reflect a rise in the levy. In the National Diet that is now devoted to the investigation of a political fund scandal involving hundreds of millions of yen, lawmakers should thoroughly investigate the dark side of renewable energy to block a policy for a tribute to China worth million times more than the amounts for the political fund scandal. They should not allow a curtain to be drawn on the renewable energy scandal only with the resignation of Ohbayashi as a tiny scapegoat from the renewable energy task force.

Tadashi Narabayashi is a professor emeritus at Hokkaido University and a director at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.