In fiscal year (FY) 2019, from April 2019 to March 2020, electricity generated from fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) was below its level before the Fukushima nuclear accident. Japan has successfully improved efficiency and deployed solar power, reducing dependence on fossils and nuclear.
Electricity generation from fossil fuels in FY 2019 was 9 terawatt-hours (TWh) below its FY 2010 level, while nuclear has been reduced by more than 220 TWh after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident1.
Key developments deserving particular attention:
- While the economy grew by 8%2 , there has been a decrease in total electricity production from 1,171 TWh in FY 2010 to 1,029 TWh in 2019; -142 TWh, or -12%. This is the result of continuous progress in energy efficiency and energy savings efforts.
- Electricity generation from fossil fuels increased in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident, peaked at 937 TWh in FY 2013, and is now below its FY 2010 level, or almost one-quarter below its peak level. However, compared to FY 2010, both coal and gas increased; about +20 TWh and +30 TWh, respectively. The decrease in fossil power was thus essentially a decrease in electricity generation from oil; around -60 TWh.
- The small restart of nuclear power has proved slow and expensive due to more stringent safety standards. In FY 2014, there was no electricity generation from nuclear power at all. Between FY 2015 and FY 2019, 9 reactors out of 55 in FY 2010, were in operation3. The share of nuclear power in total electricity generation fell from 25% to 6% over the decade. The FY 2030 target of 20-22% appears unachievable.
- The increasingly cost competitive RE expansion has resulted in an increase of solar photovoltaic (PV) installed capacity from 6 gigawatts (GW) in 2011 to 54 GW as of December 20194 . This increased RE share of electricity from 11 to 19 % of total electricity. Support prices have been reduced to less than one-third; from the first feed-in-tariff of ¥40 per kilowatt-hour to the latest auction price in FY2019 of ¥13/kWh. According to BloombergNEF’s5 the most competitive solar projects, at ¥8/kWh, may outcompete CCGT while avoiding the risks associated to fuel price volatility and greenhouse gas emissions.
- There are quite strong indications that FY 2030 low carbon electricity targets will be exceeded by RE and missed by nuclear. Based on these trajectories more realistic targets should be set in order to achieve the nation’s greenhouse gas reduction goal. This is what should be expected from the next Strategic Energy Plan in FY 2021-FY 2022.