Special guest: Mr. Takahiro Ueyama, Counselor, Local Development Promotion Office, Nishiawakura Village Office

On April 27, the 5th online seminar was held on the theme of “Initiatives in Nishiawakura Village, a Decarbonized Leading Region.

※a Leading Decarbonization Region is a model region of the “decarbonization domino” that will achieve virtually zero CO2 emissions from electricity consumption in the consumer sector (residential and business and other sectors) and other GHG emission reductions, including transportation and heat use, consistent with Japan’s FY2030 target, toward carbon neutrality in 2050, based on regional characteristics.

Takahisa Fujii, Representative of Board of the association, gave an overview of the association and its realization plan titled “Toward the Realization of Hinomaru Solar Reborn,” followed by a lecture by Takahiro Ueyama, Counselor of the Regional Development Promotion Office, Nishiawakura Village Office, on “Initiatives of Nishiawakura Village, a Region Ahead of the Decarbonization World”.

Mr. Ueyama has been working on the “100-year forest concept” to utilize the natural capital of the region since 2009, and has also been serving as an advisor to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications on the creation of regional power since this spring.

-Nishiawakura Village’s Efforts over the Past 15 Years

Nishiawakura Village, where the association office is being relocated, is located in a mountainous area, on the watershed of the Chugoku Mountains, and has a current population of approximately 1,400 people. More than 90% of the village’s area is forest, 84% of which was planted after World War II as man-made forests of cedar and cypress. Based on the natural capital of the area, the village conceived the “100-year forest concept” and has been working on forest management throughout the community. Water and timber are converted to energy in the region to turn the economy around, and young I-turners have created a trend of starting businesses that utilize the natural capital, and the region was selected as an SDG Future City in 2019 and a Decarbonization Leading Region last year.

Mr. Ueyama explained the initiatives to utilize forest assets and prevent them from becoming dead stock, renewable energy initiatives to increase the value of natural capital, and the distribution of thinned wood from the 100-year forest project, as follows.

– Initiatives to utilize forest assets and prevent them from becoming dead stock

In order to increase the value of forest resources, people from various fields are participating in efforts such as processing the forest within the community while maintaining it, sending it to major plywood mills, and using what cannot be used for energy projects within the community.

– Renewable Energy Initiatives to Increase the Value of Natural Capital

For the mountain regions, it is easy to start efforts to increase renewable energy while increasing the value of natural capital, such as the use of hydroelectric power from rivers and woody biomass in the region, and expand solar power in the future. In response to the challenge of a declining population, the region’s productive capacity currently stands at 2.2 billion yen by encouraging young people to come to the region and developing it into a regional policy that includes the economy.

-Distribution of thinned wood from the “Hundred Year Forest Project”.

The main wood to be used for renewable energy is of poor quality. The key point is that the government should maintain the parts that are difficult to add value to within the community or by the private sector, and later let them run on their own as private projects. In the event of a disaster, a CHP (combined heat and power supply system) using woody biomass chips and a district heat supply system can be installed together to maintain functions even if electricity from an electric utility is interrupted.

-a Leading Decarbonization Region to secure a local security

Mr. Ueyama also introduced the establishment of a joint proposal consortium to be adopted as a Leading Decarbonization Region.
He mentioned that the village is trying to reduce electricity consumption while producing renewable energy, and is also buying back hydroelectric power to cover any power shortages, so that all electricity is produced in Nishiawakura Village. He also emphasized the importance of building a system to collaborate with related parties and the need to work with the private sector in areas such as finance, technology, and knowledge.

He said, “In order to be adopted, it is desirable to submit a plan that meets the characteristics and issues of the region.” He also mentioned the advantages and disadvantages of the project and said, “It is also important to develop an infrastructure to consolidate and utilize data.” He concluded, “Energy is already a security measure, not just a global warming measure, and self-sufficiency needs to be viewed as an issue related to regional security. It is necessary to consider decarbonization from this perspective.”

After the lecture, Mr. Ueyama and Fujii had an in-depth discussion on the content of the lecture.

-If the government does not continue to conduct the project, but transfers it to the private sector, greater benefits will accrue and the circle of cooperation will expand. It is desirable for the government to steer government subsidies to flow to the private sector as a player.

-Both sides need to be aware that the public and private sectors are not “complementary” but “working together”.

-The “Leading Decarbonization Region” needs to be considered as a “tool” or a “means” to a set goal.

-In order to attract businesses and young people, a clear vision must be presented.