The last decade has seen a rapid global energy transition, with the installed capacity of solar and wind power increasing more than six-fold from 239 GW at the end of 2010 to 1503 GW at the end of 2020, on the back of a dramatic fall in the cost of renewables. Japan has been slower than the rest of the world to make the switch due to the country's obsession with conventional energy sources such as nuclear and coal-fired power, but the expansion of renewables is progressing. The national target of 22-24% renewable electricity in 2030 has been reached almost a decade ahead of schedule, and the cost of solar power is expected to soon become the cheapest source of electricity in Japan.
Renewable Energy Institute plays a leading role in driving this expansion of renewables in Japan. Our recommendations have led to a number of national policies, including reforms to clarify and reduce the high cost structure of solar and wind power in Japan, a “connect and manage” concept, which prioritizes renewables in the grid management, and construction plans for HVDC to enable large amounts of renewable electricity transmission.
At the same time, Renewable Energy Institute's research revealed that new coal-fired power generation, which the government calls "highly efficient," is counterproductive to combating climate change and risky for business, leading to the cancellation of several projects and policy changes.
In the debate over the revision of the Basic Energy Plan since last year, the Institute showed empirically that 45% of electricity could be supplied by renewables in 2030, providing a theoretical basis for the 40-50% target proposed by many companies and local governments. We have also published a 100% renewables scenario for decarbonization, driving a wedge between attempts to keep the 2050 renewables target low.
In addition, the Institute is part of the secretariat of the Japan Climate Initiative, the country's largest non-state actor network on climate change, working with many companies and municipalities on energy transition. We also work with two renewable energy councils, comprising prefectures and government-designated cities. The activities of the Renewable Energy User Network (RE-Users) provide practical know-how to companies to promote the procurement of renewables such as RE100.
The Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group 1, published in August 2021, declared that “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.” To avert a catastrophic climate crisis, the pace of Japan's and the world's energy transition must be much faster, however, there is a persistent drive in Japan to use decarbonization as an excuse to extend the life of nuclear power and build new plants, and to use CCS, which is nowhere near a reality, as a basis for continuing to use coal-fired power.
Renewable Energy Institute commits to fulfilling its role as the only energy policy thinktank in Japan to propose a clear vision for a decarbonized society based on 100% renewables, and an energy transition by 2030 that phases out coal-fired and nuclear power. We will also use these policy recommendations as a basis for collaboration with the many businesses, local governments, civil society and academics that are calling for stronger climate actions and an energy transition.
We look forward to your support as we move into the next decade.