Author: Suzumu Kobayashi, Zero Carbon City Promotion Division, Iida City, Nagano Prefecture, Assistant Manager and Head of Regional Energy Policy Section
The original article can be found here. (summary and translation by ICLEI Japan)
Iida is a city located in the southernmost part of Nagano Prefecture, Japan, spreading out in the middle of the Ina Valley. It has a population of about 97,000 and is surrounded by the Southern and Central Alps. The region is one of the steepest terrains in Japan, with an elevation difference of more than 2,700 metres, and the longest fault line (known as the river terrace and the Median Tectonic Line: MTL) in Japan, is carved into the terrain.
This diverse and rugged terrain offers rich natural and beautiful landscapes, which can be enjoyed in all four seasons. It is also an excellent habitat for flora and fauna and has a pleasant climate.
Recently, Iida City has also become famous as the ‘City of Yakiniku‘ (Japanese Barbeque), with the highest number of Yakiniku restaurants per 10,000 inhabitants in the country, attracting Yakiniku lovers from all over the country. Furthermore, a new urban development is underway with the decision to set up a station for the Linear Chuo Shinkansen in Nagano Prefecture. Once the Linear Chuo Shinkansen opens, it will be possible to travel to and from central Tokyo in less than an hour.
Towards the realisation of Environmental Culture City and Zero Carbon City
Iida City is working to create an environment-focused city under the banner of the ‘City of Environmental Culture’. It promotes the participation of its residents and focuses on the spread of renewable energy, including the use of natural energy and the enactment of a ‘Local Environmental Rights Ordinance’, thereby contributing to solving local issues. Furthermore, Iida City has set a target to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and as a start, cooperation with the City Council and the IIDA Chamber of Commerce and Industry jointly announced the ‘2050 Iida Zero Carbon City Declaration‘ in 2021.
Iida City is also keen on the introduction of renewable energies, particularly solar power. Since 1997, the city has supported the installation of solar power equipment, which has spread to approximately 17.8% of the city’s residences. In addition, in partnership with the local company ‘Ohisama Shinpo Energy Co., the roofs of public facilities in the city are used free of charge for a period of 20 years to promote solar power projects. Iida City purchases the electricity generated at a fixed price, providing clean energy to its citizens. The city is also involved in initiatives that make use of local characteristics, such as small-scale hydroelectric power generation.
The Local Environmental Rights Ordinance Background and its key points
Iida’s Local Environment Rights Ordinance was enacted in 2013, to utilise renewable energy revenues to solve local issues. This ordinance regards renewable energy as a common property of the citizens and gives them the right to use it. It also supports the financing and risk management of renewable energy projects and promotes sustainable community development. Local community groups take the initiative in identifying issues, proposing solutions, and deciding whether to implement projects by exercising their Local Environmental Rights.
The project requires technical and financial support and seeks approval from the mayor, which is then reviewed by a review committee. Approved projects are publicised, income from the sale of electricity is used to solve issues, and the company’s environmental contribution increases its corporate value.
Case Studies of Utilising Local Environmental Rights Ordinances
With the launch of the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme, Oji Materia Co. decided to use company-owned land for a solar power generation project. In the project plan, there was a proposal to utilise some unused land in Iida City, and after discussions with a local organisation, the Local Yamamoto Community Development Committee, it was decided to develop a square for local residents. In addition, part of the land is used to generate solar power by Ohisama Shinpo Energy Co., and donations from the income from electricity sales are used to cover maintenance and management costs. Furthermore, Cenergy Co., which undertakes power generation projects for Oji Materia Co., has offered to donate funds for the maintenance of the square, making this a new example of how the participation of major capital is linked to the revitalisation of a local community.
The square is maintained by the Yamamoto Community Development Committee, as well as nursery schools, elementary and junior high schools, the PTA, the fire department, and local residents. Since its completion, it has been used by many residents as a playground for the nearby nursery school and as a community hub.
The project began when a student ran for and won for the Student Council, pledging to save electricity and increase the use of renewable energy, with the aim of “starting the year in which the school is working with the local community to create an environmental model for the future”. Asahigaoka Junior High School has been involved in environmental activities for some time, but a major catalyst for deepening its relationship with the local community came in 2014 when the Student Council actively participated in a local litter pick-up initiative and took part in an awareness-raising campaign to prevent illegal dumping.
In order to realise its commitments, the Student Council itself exercised its Local Environment Rights, developed and planned a scheme to enable the installation of solar power equipment in its capacity as a Student Council, and after explaining the scheme to the schools and the school boards, requested their cooperation. In addition, as it is necessary to obtain the understanding, agreement, and cooperation of the local community and other interested parties in order to utilise the Local Environmental Rights Ordinance in this project, the purpose of the project was explained to local organisations, the Igara Community Development Council and Yamamoto Community Development Committee and Asahigaoka Junior High School PTA. After discussing how to proceed with the project, an application was submitted and the project was approved.
The project continues to be planned and programmed by the Student Council itself to enhance environmental activities and ongoing environmental research in the community, which continues to be supported by the local organisations and the school.
The Path Ahead
In the future, Iida City will not only focus on solar power but will also include hydropower and biomass. City officials will visit the sites and work with its residents to ensure that the Ordinance makes a further contribution to the development of the region.
The city will promote future development projects for sustainable communities, while considering how to develop projects, especially with the use of solar power, in a situation where the purchase price under the national feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme is decreasing.