TOKYO (Nikkei)–The government will encourage construction of environmentally friendly cities of the future incorporating smart grids and solar panels in the three prefectures slammed by the March 11 disaster by easing regulations in select areas, The Nikkei learned Tuesday.
Cities and areas seeking deregulation are to submit applications starting later this month, with the government expected to designate a total of six across the country in December at the earliest. Plans call for selecting one from each of the three hardest-hit prefectures: Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima. The specifics of relaxing regulations will be hashed out later in discussions between the central and local governments.
In Iwate Prefecture, the cities of Ofunato and Rikuzentakata as well as the town of Sumita plan to jointly set up large numbers of solar panels and storage batteries in coastal areas wiped out by the tsunami. This region is seen as a promising candidate for the green-city designation.
The government intends to also designate the selected areas as special reconstruction zones offering tax breaks and other financial support. But since legislation covering such special zones has not yet passed, the government plans to modify the existing program for special structural reform zones to support the disaster-hit areas for the time being.
Among the possible deregulatory measures for these special zones is easing land use requirements for the construction of nursing care facilities. The government may also support field trials on the coasts of disaster-stricken areas for tapping algae as an energy source.
Once legislation related to special reconstruction zones is passed in the extraordinary Diet session to be convened as early as autumn, the government plans to support companies in such zones by, for example, letting them deduct a portion of capital investment costs from corporate taxes and providing interest subsidies on loans.