The Japanese government aims to increase the ratio of renewable sources in the energy mix to 36-38 per cent from the current 22-24 per cent in fiscal 2030, and maintain nuclear power at 20-22 per cent, according to a draft of the basic energy plan currently under review.
The goal is for energy production that does not emit carbon dioxide such as renewable energy and nuclear power to account for about 60 per cent of electricity generated in Japan.
The basic energy plan sets the direction of the nation’s mid- and long-term energy policies. In late April, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 46 per cent by fiscal 2030 from fiscal 2013 levels.
Following the move, attention has focused on how the government would position renewable energy and nuclear power in the latest plan.
The government plans to release the draft on July 21. The Cabinet is expected to approve the new plan by around autumn this year after soliciting opinions from the public.
The draft estimates that the total amount of electricity to be generated in fiscal 2030 will be about 934 billion kWh. This is about 10 per cent less than the figure estimated in the current plan released in 2018, because of advances in energy efficiency in factories and office buildings, among other facilities.
The draft states that the government will “promote the highest possible utilisation of renewable energy as a main source of power” with a target of generating about 331-350 billion kWh.
The government regards offshore wind power as a decisive factor in making renewable energy a main source of power because it can be introduced on a large scale and a wide range of companies are involved in the sector.
Land is becoming scarce for the development of solar and onshore wind power, which are mainstay renewable energy sources.
The government will promote the expansion of renewable energies through such measures as establishing districts in which relevant businesses will be invited to operate facilities and utilising abandoned farmland.
Currently, Japan’s energy sector, including power generation, accounts for more than 80 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The draft states that “it is the government’s responsibility to work toward decarbonising the energy sector”. It positions renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power as “main power sources for the carbon-neutral era”. However, many challenges exist.
Japan has the world’s highest solar power generation capacity per square kilometre of flat land, which in turn means it has the least amount of available land on which it can expand capacity.
In addition, a series of ordinances have been enacted across the country to preserve the natural environment and landscape, making it difficult to expand the installation of solar panels.
As the output of solar power generation fluctuates depending on weather conditions, the draft states that “in the long term, [solar power] combined mainly with storage batteries is expected to develop as a stable power source.”
Regarding wind power, suitable locations for installing giant turbines are limited both on land and at sea. Also, because arrangements need to be made with local fishery cooperatives, among others, and environmental assessments must be carried out, such facilities take a long time to complete.
According to the draft, the government will be involved from the initial stage of projects and it will “study the appropriate division of roles between the public and private sectors to establish a system for conducting surveys more quickly and efficiently”.
The draft states the government’s intention to “continue utilising [nuclear power] on a necessary scale”, describing it as “an important power source that contributes to energy stability”.
Taking into consideration the lack of progress in restarting nuclear power plants, “the government will take the lead and work to gain the understanding and cooperation of local governments and other parties concerned”, according to the draft.
Japan will reduce its dependence on thermal power generation, which has been under mounting international criticism. However, in the event of an emergency, such as a sudden decline in the output of renewable energy sources, the risk that idled or aging thermal facilities will be unusable increases over time.
In the draft, the government indicated its intention to support the commercialisation of power plants that adopt new technologies such as carbon dioxide capture, utilisation and storage.
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN (JAPAN)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK