Utilities put on notice: Municipalities looking to sell energy to residents

The Japan Times

The latest threat to the nation's biggest utilities is growing in rural communities like Miyama, a town in Kyushu with a population of about 38,000. It may spread to the big cities next. Tired of its citizens forking over hard-earned yen to regional utilities and keen to promote renewable energy, Miyama in Fukuoka Prefecture became one of the first municipalities to start its own electricity retailer amid the deregulation of the country's power market. Major cities like Kyoto, Yokohama and Sapporo -- with a combined population of more than 7 million -- are considering similar moves. A fifth of Miyama's households now buy electricity from Miyama Smart Energy Co., which is majority owned by the local government and gets its electricity from renewable projects within its borders.

Wind and Solar Power Advance, but Carbon Refuses to Retreat

NYT > Economy

Two decades have passed since diplomats from around the world emerged from a conference hall in Kyoto, Japan, with what was billed as the first deal ever to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases that are relentlessly warming the earth's atmosphere. Climate diplomacy has made a lot of progress since then. All but one of the world's nations -- the United States -- have enlisted in the cause, making concrete commitments to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. Leaving aside President Trump's past declarations that climate change is a hoax, there are heartening signs that the strategy may work: Global carbon-dioxide emissions have stopped rising. Coal use in China may have peaked.

Egg whites could help power a clean-energy future

Popular Science

A Japanese researcher has found a way to use molecules from a protein-based chemical found in egg whites to generate hydrogen more efficiently, putting scientists a step closer to producing hydrogen from water without using fossils fuels and raising the possibility that hydrogen could become a clean, carbon-free source of energy. Currently, most hydrogen is produced by processes that emit planet-warming greenhouse gases. "Hydrogen is an extremely environmentally friendly energy, but it is still generated from fossil fuels in industrial processes, and greenhouse gas emissions are unavoidable," said Hiroyasu Tabe, a research associate at Osaka City University's graduate school of engineering. "Our method generates hydrogen using solar energy, without fossil fuels." Hydrogen is the simplest and most abundant element on earth, but it typically does not exist by itself in nature and must be generated from substances that contain it, such as water and fossil fuels, which hold large amounts of hydrogen.

Sharp to re-enter European market for household solar panels

The Japan Times

OSAKA – Sharp Corp. is to re-enter the European solar panel market in cooperation with Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., sources have said. In the face of weak domestic demand, Sharp plans to expand overseas using the existing sales network of Hon Hai, better known as Foxconn, the sources said. Hon Hai has agreed to take a controlling stake in the troubled Osaka-based firm. Sharp ended production of photovoltaic panels in Britain and Italy in 2014, although it has since maintained a sales base in Germany. Sharp will launch Blacksolar panels in Europe as early as year-end, the sources said.

Sharp to keep solar panel business under Taiwan's Hon Hai

The Japan Times

OSAKA – Sharp Corp. is set to retain its struggling solar panel business, judging that it can become profitable with the help of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., according to an in-house document. In the document posted Monday on its website for employees, Sharp President Kozo Takahashi and Hon Hai Vice Chairman Tai Jeng-wu revealed they are considering various steps to rebuild the solar panel business and expressed confidence it will return to profitability. Tai is expected to succeed Takahashi when Hon Hai, better known by the trade name Foxconn, completes its purchase of Sharp, making the company the first major Japanese electronics manufacturer to come under foreign ownership. Sharp had been widely seen as leaning toward selling or downsizing the solar panel business, which suffered an operating loss in the year through March 31 due to slumping prices. Following write-downs related to the solar panel business, the Osaka-based company is now aiming to revamp it by boosting sales of solar panels for homes.