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Japan parliament passes key renewable energy reform

Aug 25, 2011, 11:09 p.m.

TOKYO (Reuters) - Laws to promote renewable energy in Japan passed a final hurdle on Friday, with the upper house of parliament formally approving a scheme that investors hope will ramp up spending on solar, wind and other green energy.

The country is struggling to overhaul its energy policies after the March quake and tsunami triggered a nuclear disaster that shattered the public's confidence in the safety of the atomic industry and delayed the restart of idled plants. Costly oil and gas imports have soared.

Lawmakers say a national scheme starting next year that rewards green energy investments is part of the solution to replace lost power generation capacity and move the country away from new nuclear investment.

The laws will require utilities to buy any amount of electricity generated from solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and small-sized hydro power plants at preset rates for up to 20 years.

The government has said it wants the feed-in tariff scheme to boost capacity of the five renewable energy types by more than 30,000 megawatts (MW) over a decade.

But the bill leaves key details unresolved that could ultimately dilute its impact on energy policy. These include the price to be paid by utilities for each type of green energy, which will be decided by a parliament-appointed panel not set to meet until next year.

Japan's lower house of parliament passed the bill on Tuesday but needed final approval from the upper house, which came the same day media said Prime Minister Naoto Kan had confirmed he would step down.

(Editing by Sugita Katyal)