This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

[IOP] A community website from IOP Publishing

environmentalresearchweb blog

Japan’s Energy Plan

By Dave Elliott

In the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March last year, Japan has been trying to develop an alternative approach to energy supply and use, based on energy efficiency and a major commitment to renewables, including a new quite generous Feed-In Tariff for PV solar, a 1GW off shore wind programme and more support for other marine renewables- offshore projects obviously make sense in a country where land is at a premium. I outlined some of the offshore wind projects in an earlier Blog- they included floating wind turbines off the coast from Fukushima: http://environmentalresearchweb.org/blog/2012/07/greening-japans-energy.html.

In addition the government has decided to allow geothermal energy projects in newly opened areas of national parks. It is claimed that this could result in the development of up to 2 GW of capacity by the 2020s. As a very symbolic start, a 500 kilowatt geothermal plant is to be installed at the Tsuchiyu Onsen hot spring in Fukushima City. Some new biomass projects have also been started, including algae production for biofuels.

Looking further ahead, a 2030 energy plan is being produced. This was initially expected to emerge in June, but was delayed. Instead, in August, a consultation report emerged, ‘Towards a strategy – where public debate is pointing’ , based on the three options that the government had put forward – zero nuclear, 15% nuclear or 20-25% nuclear, with renewables taking up most the slack, at 30-35%. Energy use would also be reduced.

Early indications were that most of the public backed the zero nuclear option. With huge 100,000 strong demonstrations against nuclear power occurring regularly and weekly rallies outside the Prime Ministers residence, opposition was clearly very strong. In one poll 47% opted for zero nuclear, 16% went for 15%, while 13% chose 20-25%. In September the government announced that it would aim to get to zero nuclear ‘in the 2030s’.

Given that Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, was originally planning to expand nuclear from its pre Fukushima 26% to 45% of total electricity, a shift to zero would be very significant, and would involve major changes, especially since the aim is still to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 23-25% by 2030 from 1990 levels. However Japan’s industry minister Yukio Edano suggested it was possible. According to The Financial Times, he told reporters in Tokyo ‘We can do it,’ when asked about the impact of abandoning nuclear: ‘I don’t think the zero scenario is negative for Japan’s economy. On the contrary, it can create growth as efforts to develop renewable energy and improve energy-efficiency could boost domestic demand.’

However it will cost. Under the zero nuclear option, Japan would need to invest 43.6 trillion yen ($548 billion) on solar, wind and other types of renewable energy and 5.2 trillion yen on power grids, according to the government. But at least 26.1 trillion yen in spending on renewables would be needed even if Japan stayed with nuclear power. But the costs could also be seen as an opportunity. According to early reports, the governments could create a 50 trillion yen ($628 bn) green energy market by 2020 through deregulation and subsidies to promote development of renewables and low-emission cars. Market liberalisation, to break the monopoly of energy giants like Tepco, is viewed as a key factor, with regional monopolies being forced to spin off transmission assets from generation.

A detailed 2030 strategy has yet to emerge , and with an election in the offing in December, it may be delayed. However, in September, Japan’s environment minister, Goshi Hosono, unveiled his own ‘green growth’ plan that includes a goal of reaching 8GW in offshore wind capacity by 2030. He evidently wanted offshore wind to replace nuclear power capacity. The sustainable energy plan also foresees growth in biothermal, biomass and ocean energy electricity generation. In order to support a shift toward sustainable energy, the environment ministry plans to double the relevant budget to approximately 90bn yen ($1.1bn) for the year beginning 1 April 2013.

Windpower Monthly commented that there was some uncertainly about the status of this plan since Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has traditionally taken the lead on wind energy and has l jurisdiction over energy policy. It added ‘Japanese press reports about the 8GW by 2030 ambition make no reference to any collaboration on wind energy by the two ministries.’ But presumably it will all be subsumed in the final master plan, when that emerges.

It will be interesting to see how that plan compares with Germany’s plan. Germany already gets around 25% of its electricity from renewables and aims to get to 35% by 2020 (recently raised to 40%). However, whereas Germany already had a nuclear phase out plan and an ambitious renewables ramp-up programme in place, Japan is in effect starting from scratch, with just 1% of power coming from renewables, so it will be harder to get to high levels quickly. But with fossil fuel imports costing a lot, the incentive for rapid change is clearly there, so it may accelerate to get beyond the 35% currently envisaged for 2030, thus keeping its emission targets intact- the aim was to cut GHG emissions by 30% (from 1990 levels) by 2030. Under the 35% renewables/ zero nuclear plan that could fall to 23%., although that depends on what level of energy savings are achieved.

With around 60,000 of the 150,000 evacuees from the Fukushima area still unable to return home, the energy issue remains high on the public agenda, and support for change is clearly strong. That may be crucial in terms of reducing energy use. The emergency energy saving measures imposed by the government after Fukushima cut peak summer energy use by around 10%, partly as a result of behavioural changes, with consumers being exhorted to reduce demand so as to avoid blackouts; for more on that and the political aftermath see www.chathamhouse.org/research/eedp/current-projects/nuclear-energy-after-fukushima. In parallel, on the technology front, there are some clever new ideas emerging for smart integrated domestic energy management systems. For example see the work of ECHONET, the Energy Conservation and Homecare Network http://www.echonet.gr.jp/.

With its track record in technological innovation, Japan may yet show us all how to develop more sustainable ways of living.

For more on post-Fukushima reactions in Japan and elsewhere, see my e-book for Palgrave ‘Fukushima; impacts and implications’. See http://www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx?pid=635859.

This entry was posted in General and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author 

Leave a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published.

Guidelines

  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="http://www.google.com">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="http://iop.org/">IOP</blockquote>
IOP
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="http://www.worldwildlife.org/who/index.html">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text