Connecting People & Ideas to Advance Mutual Interests in U.S.-Asia Relations

On March 27, 2024, the Mansfield Foundation hosted a talk by Dr. Pinar Temocin of the University of Tokyo on her upcoming book on Japan’s energy decision-making process post-Fukushima. The book talk was followed by a short discussion with Dr. Jennifer Sklarew of George Mason University, and a Q&A with attendees.

Energy service companies (ESCOs) have been active in the nuclear debate following the Fukushima accident in 2011; however, their current role is unclear. Through her research, Dr. Temocin sought to answer the question of which channels and resources ESCOs use to create socio-political openings and to engage the government and government institutions regarding environmental concerns.

Dr. Temocin explained that post-Fukushima, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) decided to focus further on nuclear energy, restarting nuclear power plants that had been immediately shut down in 2011. This created a low sense of trust between the public and the LDP, as well as the nuclear industry, and communities began to work with environmental organizations to shift from nuclear energy to renewable alternatives. Japan has since adopted the Green Growth Strategy for 2050, which aims for a carbon neutral society by 2025.

With these developments, ESCOs face a variety of challenges; Dr. Temocin noted that the largest of these were Japan’s low energy self-efficiency ratio resulting in its current dependency on imported resources, the cost for safety upgrades in aging reactors and managing the current ones, restoring public trust, and gaining credibility in policy processes. Activism-oriented international organizations also face both internal (e.g., insufficient organizational capabilities with limited material resources) and external (e.g., governmental approaches) constraints. To address these needs, Dr. Temocin proposed focusing on citizen-oriented energy projects, as well as a more collaborative energy governance. Dr. Temocin concluded that the Japanese government should focus on maintaining alliances with environmental organizations and engage with grassroots environmental advocacy using a bottom-up approach.

Dr. Temocin and Dr. Sklarew then discussed how ESCOs are currently engaging with both public and politicians and how they keep the public informed regarding renewable energies. The event concluded with the a question and answer session, during which both speakers discussed the Japanese public’s opinions on the energy discussions, Japan’s use of nuclear energy in the future, and the potential transition to renewable energy.