Fall 2015 - 59909 - PA388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

Fall 2015 - 59909 - PA388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy

Renewable Energy Technology for Development in a Remote Area: Oki Islands, Japan

During August 14 to 22, 2015, three Japanese universities, led by IDEC/HU, plan to co-teach with the LBJ School a fall course on “Renewable Energy Technology from Development in a Remote Are, Oki Islands, Japan.” Students will work with community leaders and the regional electric utility to develop a feasibility plan for renewable energy (solar, wind, water, biomass and energy storage) for four Oki Islands, part of Shimane Prefecture in the Chugoku Region. The Oki Islands include 4 inhabited islands with a total population of about 20,000 persons in 4 municipalities in a ring archipelago surrounding a lagoon approximately 43 miles north of Japan’s Honshu Coast. During August temperatures average around 30 degrees Celsius, with a sea breeze. A substantial portion of the Islands are within a protected national park.

Students from the 4 universities will interact in four-person teams (one student per university per key topic) will work together in the class. Those universities and the lead faculty members in each are:

Takeshi Okamoto, Ph.D., lead faculty member, Graduate School for International Development and Cooperation, Hiroshima University, at email: tokamoto@hiroshima-u.ac.jp

Hajime Miki, Ph.D., Department of Integrative Sciences for Global Society, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan, email: miki@mine.kyushu-u-ac.jp.

Mitsuake Ueda, Ph.D., Graduate School of Global Studies, Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan, email: miueda@mail.doshisha.ac.jp

Prior to the start of the class in August 2015, students will work together via email/Skype and then work together during the period of August 15-23 in Higashi-Hiroshima and the Oki Islands (August 17-22) on a number of topics.

During the Fall Semester LBJ School students, working in university-bridging teams with students from the three Japanese universities, will write up their results in the form of a feasibility study.

Additional Course Details: Renewable Energy Technology (RET) Development in a Remote Area

Renewable Energy Technology (hereafter termed ‘RET’) development in remote area has been becoming more feasible because of the cost petroleum and the decreasing price of RETs. Remote areas that once had no option other than cost relying their energy supply on petroleum imported from outside of the region now can consider renewable energy, as petroleum energy supply costs in remote areas is not completely stable. RETs can improve the situation by utilizing indigenous energy sources. In addition to the energy security improvement, RETs can also reduce the carbon dioxide and other air pollutant emissions.

Even though RETs are now economically more feasible than ever before and installing RETs in the local energy supply system has a potential to improve the lives of residents in remote communities, there remain many factors to consider for realizing actual implementation. Some of the issues are similar in any location but some are specific to remote areas have and others are completely site specific.

Although the definition of remote area here is related to accessibility to energy supply network, remote areas are, in many cases, geographically separated from populated areas and small in size. Therefore, even small impacts could create local problems. Issues of concern can include technical challenges to social issues, as many stakeholders may be involved in the development. In effect, RTET development will lead to community development and with all of the challenges that can apply.

In this course, students will learn the current situation of a remote area in Japan (the Oki Islands), the challenges of having a separated energy supply system, and how RETs can improve those issues. Stiudents will work with the community and the Prefectural energy utility to consider for RET development in remote areas, and how to solve those issues. Finally, students will conduct group work to consolidate their knowledge obtained in this course on a variety of topics, including:

  • demographic and economic trends on the Oki Islands;
  • potential for community acceptance of renewable energy
  • technological options for renewable energy;
  • costs of renewable energy, by technology;
  • environmental considerations of renewable energy technologies;
  • economic resources, such as financing for renewable energy in Oki Islands;
  • sustainability of the Oki Island ecosystems and the potential for eco-tourism;
  • alternative administrative arrangements for renewable energy on to Oki Islands;
  • potential economic benefits from development of new industries and job  creation on the Oki Islands;
  • options for policy and  regulation for renewable energy on the Oki Islands; and
  • options for logistics, such as supplying spare parts.

The field working site will be on the Oki Islands in Shimane Prefecture, Japan. The Oki islands are remote islands in the Sea of Japan, situating about 50 km north off Shimane coast. There are four inhabited islands and the total population is about 20,000 within four municipalities (Ama, Chibu, Nishinosima, and Okinoshima). These four municipalities form a county called Oki-gun. The population trend is towards losing residents, the population is aging rapidly, job opportunities have been reduced, and the economic activity has fallen by rates far higher than in other parts of Shimane Prefecture or in much of Japan.

The characteristics of economic activity in the islands have involved fishing, forestry, livestock and mining, with some tourism. Fishing occupies a greater share in the total economic activity than the prefectural average. Forestry has traditionally been a major economic activity of the islands due to the mountainous geography; the area of forests is larger than the prefectural average. Hilly geography also makes cultivation difficult, so livestock are more important than field or tree crop cultivation. Indeed, farming is basically for domestic consumption while the animal husbandry business produces about 20 percent of prefectural total production.  The Oki Islands do not have many manufacturers. The share of construction business is about the same as the prefectural average due to national subsidies. At one time mining was a major source of income, but that is no longer the case. Tourism has become an important business activity of the islands, as the region has been designated as a national park since 1963. The Islands are also registered as a World Geopark Site at 2013. However, the number of tourists has been decreasing every year; it has fallen by half in last ten years.

Most local electricity is generated by oil-fired boilers, although there are small hydro power plants and a wind farm on the island. In 2014, Chugoku Electric Power Inc. obtained a grant from the Ministry of the Environment and started experimental installation of hybrid battery system for storing and smoothing electric output in scope of higher penetration of renewable energies. However, even including new solar and wind power plants that will be constructed in this project, the ‘green energy’ penetration rate will be stay less than 15% of total electricity supply in the islands. The Prefectural government subsidizes gasoline costs significantly for lowering the high consumer prices on the Islands. There are continuous winds, lots of radiant solar energy, unused wood biomass and flowing water that could be harnessed for hydropower.  Chugoku Electric Power Inc. is subsidizing the costs of this Oki Island course and facilitating student research.

If you have any questions, please email Dr. Eaton at eaton@austin.utexas.edu or set up a time to talk through jayashreev@austin.utexas.edu.

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