Japan's energy issue

Japan’s energy issue


On November 13, the COP26 climate talks came to a close with the signing of the Glasgow Climate Pact, which commits countries to “phase down” coal use. China, the United States, Australia, India, and Japan declined to sign the “Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement,” which calls for countries to phase out coal power plants. Japan is criticized for not agreeing to phase out coal power.


Here are outlines of Japan’s stance on the issue.


Why won’t Japan phase out coal-fired power plants?


1.   Japan’s energy self-sufficiency is at 11.8% in 2018, which is lower than other OECD nations. It dropped from 20.3% in 2010.


Japan, where resources are scarce, needs to import fossil fuel (oil, coal, and LNG) from overseas. Japan has diversified its energy sources to reduce its reliance on fossil oil since the Oil Shock of the 1970s.


However, following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, Japan was forced to suspend nuclear power plant operations, which resulted in increased fire-power plant operations.


2.   The difficulty of ensuring a stable supply of energy is because of the country's high reliance on foreign energy sources. Especially, 92% of oil is imported from the Middle East where political situation is unstable. Moreover, most LNG and coal are imported from Asia and Oceania.


3.   Considering its national security, Japan needs to build an energy stockpile. Coal imported from nearby countries such as Australia, unlike LNG, can be stored.


4.   As a result of Japan's limited energy supply, power generation costs are rising. Since the 2011 Earthquake, the electric power rate increased by 22% for homes and 25% for industry compared with the rates of 2010. Coal is a more cost-effective energy source than other sources, and it is a reliable source of energy.


5.   Although Japan wants to increase renewable energy such as solar power, there is insufficient land space suitable for solar power generation due to the country's extensive forests.


Japan’s basic energy plan


Three factors are required by Japan's basic energy plan: Energy Security, Economic Efficiency, and Environmental Protection. There is no single perfect energy source to satisfy these factors. Thus, it is important to have an Energy Mix to decrease the use of coal-fired plants and increase the deployment of clean power.


Thus, Japan plans to continue using coal power and gradually replace it with ammonia, which does not emit CO2 when burned, to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.


How will Japan respond to clean power generation?


The government plans to accelerate the shutdowns of coal-fired plants by 2030 and calls for coal-fired plants to contribute 19% Japan's total energy needs in 2030.


Overall, Japan will work on decarbonizing fuels like ammonia and hydrogen, as well as developing the ammonia power generation technology. Japan wishes to export this technology to East Asian countries to help them decarbonize.



News Web Q&A Nov. 5, 2021

"Japan's Energy 2020" by Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, Nov. 18, 2020

Posted on November 20, 2021