Japan’s industry ministry released an energy policy draft on July 21 that set a new target of 36% to 38% renewables in the country’s electricity mix by 2030, up from the previous target of 22% to 24%, as reported by Reuters later that day. The draft also reduced the fossil fuel target from 56% to 41%, within which coal accounted for 19%, and kept the nuclear target at around 20% to 22%. Other emerging energy resources such as hydrogen and ammonia would take up the remaining 1% approximately. A governmental official considered the revised policy more ambitious than ideal, as renewables only made up 18% of the country’s electricity mix in the financial year leading up to last March.
Japan is currently the fifth-largest national greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter in the world. This April, Japan’s prime minister Yoshihide Suga announced that the country would raise the 2030 GHG emission reduction goal to 46% from the earlier 26%, compared to 2013 levels. Since then, the Japanese government has taken steps to facilitate the development of renewables. For example, the industry ministry rolled out a series of regulatory measures to ease bureaucratic barriers to wind power installation in late April. It aimed to install up to 40GW of offshore wind power by 2040. In addition, the environment and trade ministries announced earlier this month the newest goal of achieving 108GW of solar power capacity by 2030. To do so, the ministries planned to install about 20GW of solar photovoltaic panels on governmental and commercial buildings, parking lots, and public lands in the next few years.
A major roadblock to the revised energy plan, however, was the shutdown of nuclear energy plants after the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Since the accident, most nuclear reactors in Japan have been decommissioned, and support for nuclear power remains low. Although the country used to have 54 nuclear reactors supplying 30% of its electricity use before the accident, only five plants with nine reactors are still in use today. Industry experts suggested that the current nuclear capacity could hardly meet the new energy plan’s requirement and demanded more concrete policies on the expansion of nuclear power, which were lacking in the latest policy draft.