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Structural Reform: Japan's Radical Energy Technocrats Drive Smart Cities

• Technocracy.News

Energy is always at the heart Technocracy. In Japan, Technocrats are restructuring the energy industry in order to transform traditional cities into Smart Cities. The result will be control over every facet of living, ie., Scientific Dictatorship. Apparently, the Japanese citizenry has no idea what is happening right under their nose. ? TN Editor

Japan's December 14 general election is essentially a rigged referendum on Abenomics. Despite the dismal economic news, team Abe can hardly lose against the splintered and poorly led opposition parties at the national level. The hapless Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) seems likely to gain some seats; but Abe has defined defeat as the loss of his parliamentary majority, which is simply not going to happen.1 Electioneering per se is set to begin on December 2. It will almost certainly not feature substantive debate on the stark choices confronting Japan, meaning how to achieve resilient, decarbonizing, resource-lite growth in the world's most rapidly ageing society. There will be no serious discussion of the fact that Japan faces among the direst threats from climate change, the developed economies' most gargantuan public debt, extreme dependence on increasingly precarious fossil fuels, an unprecedented economic experiment (Abenomics) now clearly in deep trouble, dangerously poisoned relations with important neighbours, and a multiplicity of other challenges that collectively defy precedent. All developed and developing countries face dense clusters of "wicked problems," particularly on the water-energy-food nexus in an epoch of climate crisis, but surely Japan's are among the most daunting if one strips out the failed states.

Mainstream economic and business analysts are, of course, furiously pumping their bellows of gaseous advice. They insist that Japan can fix all the above by aiming the faltering Abenomics programme at opening markets via the Trans-Pacific Partnership and structural reform that gives large firms and megabanks more freedom to allocate capital in ever more unsustainable ways. By and large, the structural reformists want Japan to be more like post-Reagan America. Key elements of this vision have little appeal for most Japanese and have been thoroughly discredited by such astute students of comparative political economy as Sven Steinmo.2

However, while the rhetoric of Abenomics has dominated international discussion, Japan is already undertaking a radical and massive public-sector-centred structural reform of a very different variety. This reform is steeped in astute application of approaches most fully realized in Germany, and Japan is already at work renovating industry, building resilience, and bolstering local democracy. The most recent summary statement of this project is found in Smart Communities: A Smart Network Design for Local Government Infrastructure, an important new Japanese book, organized by Japan's top mainstream energy intellectual Kashiwagi Takao, and published October 15, 2014.3 The book describes – especially its initial chapter, written by Kashiwagi – how Japan's energy technocrats are using the feed-in tariff, stadtwerke (municipal business), power-sector deregulation and other key elements of Germany's green energy transition as engines for something much more ambitious. And the Japanese are also hooking up their project to multiple firehoses of fiscal and financial policy. This is a sharp contrast to the Germans, whose energy shift is hobbled by fiscal austerians seemingly bent on sacrificing the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain), the entire EU, and thus themselves as well.4

Smart Communities as the Growth Strategy

Even before 3-11, Japan's growth strategies emphasized smart grids and other green innovation, focused on the urban contexts in which over half of the world's population already live and which are growing apace. For example, on June 18, 2010, the Hatoyama cabinet approved a New Growth Strategy that emphasized green innovation, centred on smart communities, in order to build YEN 50 trillion in new green business and 1.4 million new jobs by 2020.5The METI "smart city" elite were clearly prominent among the technocrats designing this approach, as is evident from their very detailed December, 2010 presentation (in Japanese) "Policy Evolution Towards the Realization of Smart Communities." Perhaps because of the strength of the nuclear-obsessed Tepco and other power-monopolies' labour unions as the DPJ base, the Hatoyama cabinet itself was more enthusiastic about nuclear than the METI smart community technocrats. The latter's documents of course include nuclear in the centralized baseload power mix (which was explicit energy policy at the time); but they exhibit far more interest in distributed generation, smart grids, power storage, smart meters and other devices that even then were core to the fast-emerging smart community paradigm. They also evince a keen awareness of developments in Germany and elsewhere as well as deep concern at the risk that Japan might build yet another Galapagos as it already had in electronics, energy, and some automotive technology.6

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