This proposal summarizes the measures to enhance national strategy for energy research and development. The challenges requiring earnest attention in the areas of Japan's energy research and development, and measures for promoting such R&D, are summarized in various national plans that have been put forward by the government, such as the "Basic Energy Plan", its second revised edition, published in June 2010, the "Innovation Plan for Environmental Energy Technology" that was announced in May 2008 by Council for Science and Technology Policy, and the "Basic Policy on Science and Technology" that was reported by the Council in December 2010. It has been pointed out that it is also necessary to enhance the functions for planning and promoting comprehensive energy plans across all offices and ministries, as well as the functions related to basic, fundamental research, as covered by this proposal, but the planning and the execution of concrete measures have yet to be done.
An energy plan is a national program that is developed based on the collected goals and expectations of every social activity and individual life. On the other hand, the plan is an extremely complicated comprehensive policy that is affected by uncertain elements such as demographic dynamics, the structure of industry, and the international resources market. Our country has promoted the development of new technologies for energy utilization to make international contributions to the stable supply of energy as well as the prevention of global climate change. However, a master plan for energy that is agreed to and shared by all levels of people in Japan, and a consolidated plan for energy research and development that is part of that master plan, have yet to be realized. The US created a department to be responsible for energy in the 1970s and established a system for comprehensively discussing all energy issues on an equal footing and developing energy plans. The UK followed three years ago. We face a pressing need to construct an energy master plan that is tailored to the needs of our country.
Against this background, the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident in March 2011 led to an unprecedented wide-ranging disaster and forced Japan to reconstruct its national social, economic and administrative systems. Central to the challenge is ensuring a supply of energy so as to support all the activities of our country. Consequently, the people of Japan are looking to the government to draw up a comprehensive mid- and long-term design for safely and stably providing energy in response to demand in Japan.
From these viewpoints, we propose the following points.
[Proposal] The nation should enhance the functions needed to plan and promote both a national master plan for energy and a consolidated plan for energy research and development.
(1) To effectively promote research and development in energy-related fields, create a national mid- and long-term master plan for energy, and a consolidated plan for energy research and development that is driven by issue search (research into and discovery of social wishes), across offices and ministries, and enhance the system for, and function of, promoting the plans with the collaboration of industry, academia and government.
(2) Make the process of plan development transparent to the public, to utilize the knowledge and experience of researchers, engineers and administrative officials that are involved in energy research, development and commercialization, while sharing a consolidated plan for research and development.
(3) To promote the long-term challenge for R&D, given the high degree of difficulty presented by energy-related fields, set and adhere to basic policies for plans concerning basic and fundamental research. Furthermore, establish a basic research center for setting policy goals in the energy-related fields and promoting problem-solving collaboration among researchers in different fields and cooperation between basic research and application research and development, under the guidance of the center.
For a "consolidated plan for energy research and development," it is necessary to scientifically examine the overall demand for and supply of fossil resources, nuclear power, and renewable energy, and to indicate the priority of focused measures, the scale of the budget to be allocated to some project and the reasons for setting such a priority and budget, so as to ultimately realize the national goals affecting people's lives from a mid- and long-term standpoint. This release is absolutely essential to gaining a common understanding from all the researchers and project managers as well as the populace in the role of energy users. The related offices and ministries have already made some efforts to develop and promote energy policies under the initiative of Council for Science and Technology Policy, but these efforts have not been satisfactory from the above standpoint.
Since energy is positioned as a prerequisite for all social activities, it is more important for scientists and engineers to maintain more interaction with society and positively participate in national planning in a neutral position. Consequently, it is necessary for scientists (including not only natural scientists but also social and humanities scientists) to take the initiative in promoting issue search (research into and discovery of social wishes), so as to recognize potential future social needs in advance and to link these needs to the development of science and technology while proposing R&D challenges to society.
Furthermore, in order to collect opinions from all levels of the populace, for instance, we should assume the use of a forum such as an "innovation council" which is being considered by the government. In such a forum, it is important to guarantee the transparency of discussions in open environments. Hence, we propose that a secretariat of the council should employ experts in science and technology for a given period to actively receive and scientifically understand proposals and views from academia and industry. In addition, to proceed with policy planning in a scientific manner across all offices and ministries while collecting various opinions, we propose that experts with cross-cutting perspectives should be recruited to decision-making positions in an administrative organization and measures for the development of such human resources be defined.
Basic and fundamental research related to energy is mainly left up to independent researchers working in universities and institutions. We have often heard the opinion, however, that it is very difficult for young researchers to become involved in basic research requiring large amounts of time because the research presents a high risk to the researchers and research results are nowadays expected in the short term. In addition to the above research into and discovery of social wishes, the basic research center should continuously promote basic research into innovative challenges and leading-edge fundamental research such as measurement, analysis, and simulation that supports application research and development and commercialization in line with basic research. A detailed picture should be drawn of the basic policies that must be observed by the country, through industry-government-academia discussions in the above innovation council and other forums.
We have proposed that the basic research center in the energy-related fields should be established in the Tohoku region as one of reconstruction measures in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident. The promotion of the basic research center and network-type R&D driven by the center can make an important contribution to the reconstruction and also Japan's science and technology innovation.