A new report compiled for Japan’s Ministry of the Environment has advised that the country could triple its proportion of energy generated from renewable sources in the overall mix by 2030.
The report by Mitsubishi Research Institute highlights the importance of an ongoing strategy to increase renewable energy deployment for both environmental reasons and for the benefit of Japan’s national security. Mitsubishi Research Institute and the environment ministry have recommended a number of policy proposals, including revisions to the feed-in tariff (FiT) system and better recognition of renewable heat as an alternative to PV-generated electric power.
Image credit: Kyocera
It argues that in order for Japan to boost its “energy self-sufficiency”, reducing fossil fuels imports on which the country is heavily dependent, to increase the country’s economic competitiveness and create employment, renewable energy must continue to spread. Simultaneously, the report says, renewable energy is likely to be an important contributing factor in reaching targets relating to greenhouse gas reductions.
The report also looks comparatively at other nations’ efforts in renewables, including the obvious example of Germany’s energy transition (‘Energiewende’). It acknowledges that thanks to premium feed-in tariffs (FiTs) in Germany and elsewhere, solar PV system prices have declined and come closer and closer to grid parity. The report also says however that increases in the burden of costs for the shift to clean energy have become a “social problem”.
Since the inception of the FiT in July 2012, Japan has also seen renewable energy deployment increase greatly, but has also faced problems with available grid connection for projects and political pressure. The latter has been based not only on rises in household electricity bills but allegedly also on the say-so of heavy industry lobbying groups as well as the natural monopolies for electricity supply held by the country’s big utilities, which also operate the grid infrastructure.
From current levels where Japan generates around 116TWh from a mixture of biomass, solar, wind, geothermal, hydro and tidal energy, the country could hit somewhere between 241.4TWh and 356.6TWh by 2030, the report says. This would include around 77.7TWh to 128TWh of solar, from around 15TWh at present-day levels. Looking at the long-term outlook the report details a roadmap for reaching 2050 carbon emissions targets, with Japan having pledged in 2012 to cut emissions by 80%. In addition to increased renewables deployment, demand reduction would also be key to these efforts.
At the highest level, the Japanese government put out the national “Basic Energy Plan” in April 2014, a document which is updated every few years and lays out energy policy and strategy. Although in materials accompanying the Mitsubishi Research Institute report the environment ministry said the plan showed government commitment to increasing renewable energy, that iteration of the plan drew criticism from a number of quarters.
This was because passages relating to renewable energy were considered vague, while the plan also contained the first hints that the government is likely to push ahead with restarting operations at nuclear facilities, albeit on a gradual basis. Japan shuttered all of its nuclear power plants in 2013 following the meltdown incident at the Fukushima Dai Ichi reactor. (Source: pv-tech.org / BLOOMBERG)