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Japan struggles for balance in pivot to renewables

Seb Kennedy's picture
Founding Editor, Energy Flux newsletter

I am professional energy journalist, writer and editor who has been chronicling the renewables and fossil fuel energy sectors since 2008.  I am passionate about the energy transition, so much so...

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  • Mar 1, 2022

Like many countries, Japan has to juggle the current reality of power supply with its net-zero goals. While there’s no going back to the primacy of fossil fuels, Japan is taking small steps to resolve immediate energy issues and hoping for a lucky break in future ‘dream’ technologies to meet its 2030 and 2050 emissions reduction commitments — but challenges abound, writes Mayumi Watanabe.

The expansion of Japan’s renewable energy sector has resulted in transmission capacity bottlenecks, causing solar output curtailment. At the same time, moving to a system in which thermal power plays a supporting role to renewables throws up technical and economic issues.

In June, the government hopes to shed light on how those issues might be resolved by publishing a new Clean Energy Strategy. It will act as a roadmap for how to achieve the 46% carbon reduction from FY2013 levels Japan has promised, a vow based on a doubling of renewables’ share and a halving of thermal capacity.

The Strategy will need to rally the entire energy sector so that disparate actors learn to work together. Without that spirit of cooperation, Japan faces an unnecessary waste of time and resources, and the clinging on to short-term fixes, such as extending the life of half-century old thermal units to survive peak demand periods.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 1, 2022

Japan is in a unique position with such advanced energy needs, but not a lot of open land and no natural fossil fuels on hand to rely upon. How they handle the energy transition I think will be a telling sign for other parts of the world to follow

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Mar 3, 2022

Japan has some great departments that work on Renewable Energy. Members of JEPIC came to visit us in Arizona back in 2010. I showed them ASU the most Solar University in the US. They also came to visit my Solar Home and I showed them my Energy Positive utility reports and the system I build myself in 2001. We rode in the PLUGIN Prius I have modified by a local company. I told them they have Solar PV and Thermal power as well as water wave and current power. They also have Geo-Thermal and very efficient homes. 

    I also took they to meet ACC Chair person Kris Mayes who helped craft and pass the clean energy requirements. She and I explained it was all policy. Just look at German with only 60% of the Solar resource we have. They were very impressed but still did not see how they could do Renewable in Japan. A short time after they has the Fukushima disaster

Andrew Blakers's picture
Andrew Blakers on Mar 8, 2022

Our recent paper shows that Japan has far more energy potential from offshore wind and solar (co-located with agriculture) than it will ever need. Japan also has vast amounts of off-river pumped hydro potential for load balancing.

"100% renewable energy in Japan",


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Thank Seb for the Post!
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