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Cheap power the key to AI-based business

13 3 0

KIZUGAWA, KYOTO PREF. – It is considered inevitable that demand for electric power will increase dramatically as artificial intelligence replaces human intellectual labor with the progress of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Human brains are extremely energy-efficient. When a person thinks in a concentrated manner, his or her brain consumes a mere 21 watts of electricity. But AI doing the same degree of intensive thinking requires over 10,000 times more electricity.

If that is the case, the international competitiveness of businesses will depend on factors concerning the supply and cost of electricity in their home country. How, then, does Japan stand with regard to power supply and cost?

Electricity rates in 2018 for industries were higher in Japan than in any other OECD member nations except Italy, and about three times higher than in Norway, the lowest among OECD countries. In countries like Canada and Norway, which are rich in water resources, the cost of generating power is far lower than in nations that rely mainly on thermal and nuclear power.

Based on its own quantitative assessment showing that the unit cost of nuclear power is the second-lowest after coal-fired power generation, Japan’s Natural Resources and Energy Agency has long promoted nuclear energy as a national policy, calling it a key, stable source of power that will help ensure an inexpensive supply of electricity and serve as a trump card toward combating climate change.

But since the catastrophe at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant caused by the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, proponents of nuclear power in both the public and private sectors have been silent. The government’s Fifth Basic Energy Plan released in 2018 estimates that by 2030, nuclear power will be generating 20 to 22 percent of the nation’s total electricity supply. But it does not say a word........

© The Japan Times