The Japanese government is poised to provide a total of 3 trillion yen ($29.6 billion) to Central Japan Railway Co in a bid to launch high-speed maglev train services between Tokyo and Osaka up to eight years earlier than the originally targeted 2045, government sources said Thursday.
Under the plan, the government will lend 1.5 trillion yen in both fiscal 2016 and 2017 from its fiscal investment and loan program to JR Central, the operator of the new train service, the sources said.
The government’s fiscal investment and loan program, known as “zaito” and dubbed the nation’s second budget, is intended to supply long-term, low-interest loans for projects that are highly public and for which private companies cannot easily secure sufficient funds.
In June, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government will bring forward the schedule to launch maglev train services between Tokyo and Osaka from the initially planned 2045.
He did not elaborate further. But the government and JR Central are considering launching the magnetically levitated train line eight years earlier than the initial schedule, according to the sources.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is hoping the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo will provide Japan with a psychological boost, help him revive the nation’s struggling economy and breathe life into the business of sports here. As this year’s Games closed in Rio de Janeiro, excitement was already building in Japan, which won 41 medals in Rio — its best Olympic performance. In Sunday’s closing ceremony, the Olympic flag was formally passed to Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, the first woman to lead the city. At the event, Abe burst onto the stage dressed as the Nintendo video-game character Mario, providing free publicity to an iconic Japanese firm while trying to portray Japan as a modern and fun place.
Japan has already earmarked $7.3 billion to build a new stadium and other infrastructure in anticipation of the Olympics, a figure expected to rise, in addition to billions of dollars for upgrading transport networks. The central bank says investment will boost Japan’s gross domestic product by up to 0.3 percentage point annually in the next two to three years. Abe hopes the Olympics will help him meet his goal of doubling the annual number tourists to the country to 40 million by 2020, two years after his term ends. More broadly, Abe proposes to make sports “a core industry” as part of his effort to boost Japan’s nominal GDP by 20% from its 2015 level.
Currently, compensation and decontamination are being covered by the state, on Tepco's behalf, without charging interest. Tepco and other power companies will eventually have to reimburse the government for compensation payouts through a pool of contributions. The government will recoup decontamination costs by selling the Tepco shares it owns. Under this program, introduced immediately after the nuclear accident so that Tepco could meet all of its compensation obligations without going bankrupt, 11 power companies that operate nuclear reactors, including Tepco, together made a general contribution of 163 billion yen in the fiscal year to March. Tepco added another 70 billion yen as a special contribution. Although general contributions are meant to create a contingency fund for any future severe accidents at the country's electric companies, they are in reality being used to cover Fukushima-related compensation claims.
Power companies must make general contributions for decades, and the cost is passed on to consumers through higher electricity bills. But with the liberalization of Japan's retail electricity market in April, this mechanism will become increasingly difficult to maintain. Previously, dominant power suppliers, such as Tepco, could recoup the cost by assessing a fee on users within their territories. But that may no longer be possible as government-approved rates will be abolished in a few years, making way for new suppliers to step in with cheaper rates.
Toyota Motor and NEC will join a public-private initiative to develop a core artificial intelligence technology that can find application in such fields as medicine, manufacturing and infrastructure management.
The government-backed Riken research institute's Center for Advanced Integrated Intelligence Research will open a research base Sept. 1 in Tokyo. More than 20 companies and institutions, including Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Nippon Telegraph & Telephone and AI development startup Preferred Networks, are expected to send researchers there.
The goal is to develop a basic problem-solving AI technology that does not require massive amounts of data to work on. The program will find optimal solutions for specific situations that humans would not see from even a limited data set. Using this program, participating companies and labs will develop AI systems for their own real-world applications such as monitoring Japan's aging infrastructure.
The Japanese government lists AI as a pillar of its economic growth strategy, hoping to use the technology to overcome such challenges as a declining population and growing shortages of engineers and other skilled workers.
The Japanese government will provide local authorities with data analysis software to aid their efforts to adapt public facilities to declining populations. The land ministry will create a database including information as varied as train and bus schedules, road widths and abandoned home locations in the fiscal year ending March 2017. This could be combined with smartphone location histories and other data to analyze the movements of people in specific time periods.
The ministry will develop software for this purpose, making it available free of charge in fiscal 2017. A local government could then predict how human traffic would shift if a new school were built in the city center, or if hospitals consolidated, for example. The software could also be used for such purposes as selecting locations for public facilities and attracting commercial development projects. In three decades, the Japanese population will drop 16% from the 128 million of 2010, estimates the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. Many localities are thus working to concentrate public facilities in city centers to save on maintenance.
Renewable energy such as solar and wind power is predicted to account for only 33 percent of Japan's total energy output in 2040 -- the eighth spot among the world's top nine CO2 emitting countries and regions -- according to a report released by British research organization Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). BNEF predicts that renewable energy will account for 45 percent of the world's total energy output in 2040. BNEF's long-term forecast shows that the portion of renewable energy occupying Japan's total power to be generated in 2040 is expected to remain small at a time when the world is moving ahead to shift away from fossil fuels.
Because many of the new coal-fired thermal power stations being built in Japan are expected to continue to operate even in 2040, Japan is not expected to have much room for adopting additional renewable energy, the report predicts. Japan set a goal of having renewable energy account for 22 to 24 percent of the country's total energy output in 2030, but even if the goal is achieved, BNEF says that Japan will not be able to further increase renewable energy output by 2040 unless it takes new policy measures such as forcing coal-fired thermal power stations to shut down.
Japan´s space agency has announced that it will release Kenya´s first satellite – for no fee – from its Kibo laboratory at the International Space Station. The move, announced Thursday, is expected to take place sometime in fiscal 2017, which begins next April. Deploying the University of Nairobi´s microsatellite, which measures just 10 cm by 10 cm and weighs about 1 kg, will be Japan´s first instance of aiding developing nations without space-launch capabilities for purposes such as disaster prevention. In September, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency agreed with the United Nations to support such launches, with a goal of sending one satellite into orbit each year. The Kenyan satellite, dubbed IKUNS-PF, an acronym for 1st Kenyan University Nano Satellite Precursor Flight, will test its technology for a future Earth observation mission, JAXA said.
Nyheterna är denna vecka sammanställda av Shiori Shules, Mats Engström, Toru Kodama, och Niklas Kviselius vid Tillväxtanalys kontor i Tokyo.