During a 5 December speech at the United Nations University (UNU) Headquarters in Tokyo, Icelandic ambassador to Japan, Stefan Larus Stefansson, gave an upbeat assessment of Japan’s enormous untapped geothermal energy potential, citing Iceland’s 85-year history of success in this area as a model.
Stefansson added that if Japan were to invest in fully realizing its geothermal potential, the nation could replace the electrical output of 25 nuclear reactors.
And Japan hardly lacks the technical expertise necessary for geothermal installations, as they are the world’s largest manufacturers of geothermal turbines, building the equipment that Iceland uses in its geothermal plants. Three Japanese industrial concerns – Toshiba, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Fuji Electric have a combined total of over half the world market for geothermal turbines.
But currently geothermal power accounts for a mere 0.3 percent of Japan’s total electricity production.
But even though the pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party has been returned to power, Stefansson’s advocacy may have yet an ace up his sleeve. When on 21 August Stefansson presented his credentials as Ambassador of Iceland to Japan to Emperor Akihito, the monarch expressed great interest in the role of Japan related to global warming, asking Stefansson about the impact of Iceland’s geothermal energy industry before asking about trade relations between Iceland and Japan.
Iceland’s first overseas geothermal plant opened in El Salvador in 2009, and Iceland’s power industries are eager to export more.
Accordingly, Japan’s nuclear power executives and their LDP buddies must be hoping that the Emperor has a short attention span.
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