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Japan raises renewables target for 2030 to 36-38% of power mix

22 July 2021 Kevin Adler

Japan is proposing to raise its target for renewable energy and reduce the role of coal in the country's electricity mix for 2030, in order to fulfill its updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) for reducing GHG emissions.

The Ministry of Energy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced a draft plan on 21 July that targets renewables contributing 36-38% of power production in 2030, compared with an existing target of 22-24%. For the fiscal year that ended 31 March 2020 (the most recent data available), renewables including hydropower contributed 18% of the country's power mix (Draft plan is only available in Japanese.)

According to local news reports, the next step would be for a formal public comment period based on the draft document, and then finalization of the plan later this year. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and the Cabinet would then review and approve the plan, which would lead to a legislative process in the Diet.

During the Leaders Summit on Climate coordinated by the US in April, Japan announced it was raising its NDC to a 46% GHG reduction by 2030 from 2013 levels, compared with a prior commitment of a 26% reduction.

The country is well on its way to meeting its goals, METI said. Japan reduced its GHG emissions each year from 2013 through 2019, the latest available data show, and emissions are down 14% from the benchmark year of 2013.

Under the latest proposals, coal's generation mix share will be reduced to 19% from a previous target of 26%. Natural gas' share will be reduced from a previous target of 56% to 41% by 2030. Most of Japan's natural gas comes as LNG imports, rather than by pipeline; the country has no domestic natural gas production.

Japan's nuclear target was left unchanged at 20-22%.

Emerging fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia will account for about 1% of the electricity mix in 2030, the draft said.

The draft did not mention raising Japan's carbon tax to incentivize a shift away from fossil fuels. Japan's carbon tax is currently about $3.00/mt, one of the lowest levels of any nation that has a carbon tax.

METI's long-term plans for renewables received criticism over the last year, when it said Japan's share of renewables and nuclear in power generation even in 2050 would be 50-60%. The rest of Japan's power mix in 2050 would come from coal and gas, balanced by carbon capture and storage (CCS).

To reach 100% renewables by 2050, METI last year forecast that the full cost of electricity would be about ¥53/kWh ($0.48/kWh), "due to increased system integration costs," according to the agency's "The Green Growth Strategy through 2050."

The Tokyo-based Renewable Energy Institute (REI) challenged those estimates in a statement in May, noting they are more than twice the cost forecast by the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ) of about ¥25/kWh.

"Why is the cost more than double that of other studies that also take into account 'cloudy and windless periods'?" REI asked.

The International Energy Agency has forecast that 90% of the world's power will be renewable by 2050, well above METI's target, REI added.

REI also queried whether Japan would be able to ship the expected 200 million mt of CO2 emitted each year overseas for disposal if CCS is not available in Japan.

The IEEJ, in a report released in December, emphasized that decarbonizing energy, at whatever rate is achieved, is only part of the solution. "Policy interest is rising not only for electricity [to be net zero], which satisfies a mere 28% of final energy demand, but also for fossil fuels, which satisfy the remaining 72%, with a particular focus on heat utilization in the industry sector and decarbonization in the transport sector. Along with the decarbonization of fossil fuels, further renewable energy usage is also expected to draw attention in those sectors," it said.

METI net-zero summit next week

METI also announced this week it will co-host an online event, "Net Zero Leaders Summit (Japan Business Conference 2021)," starting on July 28 and 29, to "promote Japan's attractive investment environment with a focus on international collaboration and cooperation with Japan."

CEOs from 15 organizations and companies, both within Japan and globally, will participate in three panel discussions. They include the CEOs of Air Liquide, Enel, Mitsubishi, Petronas, and Vestas Wind.

Registration for the free event is here.

Posted 22 July 2021 by Kevin Adler, Editor, Climate & Sustainability Group, IHS Markit

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