|Minister Kajiyama of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced at today's press conference that METI will proceed with the closure of low-efficiency coal-fired power plants in Japan. However, the current Basic Energy Plan formulated in 2018 already includes the policy of "working towards inefficient coal-fired power generation fade-out." This announcement is a concretization of this default “fade-out” policy and is not a new decision.|
Although the Minister announced that specific measures will be considered starting in this month and will be summarized by the end of this year, Renewable Energy Institute has the following three concerns, based on various media reports.
1. 30 GW of coal-fired power will be used as of 2030 even when "100 units are suspended and decommissioned"
Many of the 100 units subject to suspension and closure are small-scale with a capacity of 100 to 200 MW. In contrast, the “high-efficiency” coal-fired power that is planned to be used in 2030 is mainly large-scale with 600 to 1000MW, and it is expected to sum up to 20 GW. If this capacity is added to the new coal-fired power currently under construction, it will be about 29 GW. Furthermore, since 10% of inefficient coal-fired power will be kept, in total, about 30 GW of coal-fired power will remain as a whole in 2030.
In order to achieve the CO2 reduction target of the Paris Agreement, it is necessary for developed countries to completely phase-out of coal-fired power generation by 2030. The announced policy therefore is completely different from the efforts of the world that tackle climate crisis.
2. Restatement and maintenance of the old policy to protect high-efficiency coal-fired compared to low-efficiency which has little difference in carbon dioxide emissions
In the Basic Energy Plan, “fading out” inefficient coal-fired power plants are in hand in hand to "promote higher efficiency and next-generation of coal-fired power generation." These high-efficiency coal-fired plants reduce carbon dioxide emissions by only a few percent over the "inefficient" ones. Japan has been criticized for nothing but the fact that it has promoted "high-efficiency coal-fired power," which is practically useless in reducing emissions, by calling it “clean coal.” This announcement makes it clear that the "clean coal" policy will be maintained.
3. Risk of long-term emission lock-in to maintain the 26% goal by 2030
According to the Basic Energy Plan, "26% will be supplied by coal-fired power in 2030." It is expected that about 20% will be supplied with 30 GW of coal in 2030 based on the today’s announcement. Therefore, it will be necessary to install more coal-fired power generation to supply 26% if the target is kept. A coal-fired power plant, which requires a huge amount of initial investment, if once constructed, it will be used for about 40 years. If newly constructed, it will continue to emit large amounts of carbon dioxide in the latter half of this century.
In order to ensure the substantial reduction of carbon dioxide required for avoiding the climate crisis, it is necessary to thoroughly promote energy efficiency and significantly expand renewable energy. Many Japanese companies, including major electric power companies, have entered the domestic and overseas renewable energy development business. A clear phase-out of coal-fired power is also necessary to create new business opportunities in Japan.
At today's press conference by Minister Kajiyama, it was also announced that the policy to use the main transmission lines will be reviewed to accelerate the more integration of renewables. Renewable Energy Institute has called for the realization of a system in which renewable energy is preferentially connected to generate and supply power in order to use the transmission network efficiently. In order to achieve this, each transmission company should implement current transmission and connection rules, as well as further institutional reform by the government is required. If the policy will be reviewed towards efficient use of the transmission network, it will greatly promote Japan’s energy transition.
Renewable Energy Institute will soon publish its recommendations to show the 2030 sustainable energy mix and its potential. It is expected that the Basic Energy Plan will be revised in 2021. The policy direction for METI to be in line with the global efforts to combat the climate crisis, is to show in this revision, to completely phase-out of coal-fired power generation and to present a clear direction of energy transition centered on renewable energy generation. Renewable Energy Institute will continue to promote constructive exchanges with related ministries and electric power companies.