Land of the Rising Sun’s Energy Conundrum

The population of Japan, known as the “Land of the Rising Sun” is approximately 126.27 million people[1]. In 2019, 100% of the people in this island country in East Asian country had access to electricity[2].

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred approximately twenty miles off the eastern coast of Japan. The earthquake created a tsunami that devastated the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in the Fukushima Prefecture of Tohoku.

In 2016, Japan signed the Paris Climate Agreement, committing to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 26% below 2013 levels by 2030.

In 2019, Japan’s economy was ranked 3rd in the world in gross domestic product (GDP)[3]. The country’s economy is dependent on the manufacture and export of vehicles, machinery, computers, medical equipment, iron, steel, plastics, ships, and chemicals.

In 2019, Japan’s utilities used liquified natural gas (34%), coal (31%), renewable energy (23%), nuclear energy (7%) and oil (5%) to generate electricity in the country[4]. Hydropower and solar were the primary sources of renewable energy in Japan.

In 2019, Japan adopted a long-term emissions reduction strategy, which set the goal of the country being carbon-neutral after 2050. The strategy includes plans for the country to use hydrogen as a fuel and carbon-capture technology to reduce emissions.

Recent renewable energy projects in Japan include:

  • Offshore Wind Tender – In June 2020, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) announced the first tender for a floating offshore wind project. The tender award will be announced in June 2021.
  • 2 MW Solar Project – In September 2020, Japanese multinational company, Toshiba announced plans to build the Ikeda Solar Power Plant, which will be located near Nasu-gun in the Tochigi Prefecture.
  • 9 MW Solar Project – In September 2020, Toshiba announced plans to build the Yatsubo Solar Power Plant, which will be located near Nasushiobara City in the Tochigi Prefecture.
  • 40 MW Solar Projects – In July 2020, Japanese engineering firm, Toko Electrical Construction commissioned two interconnected solar plant, which are located in the Fukushima Prefecture.
  • 3 MW Solar + Energy Storage Project – In October 2020, Japanese holding company Softbank commissioned a solar plus energy storage project, which is located near the town of Yakumo, in the northern island of Hokkaido.
  • 6 MW Offshore Wind Farm – Japanese joint venture, Akita Offshore Wind Corporation is continuing the development of the offshore wind farm, which is located at Akita and Noshiro ports in the coastal zone of Akita prefecture. The offshore wind project is scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2022.
  • 8 MW Solar Projects – In November 2020, METI announced that 255 solar projects had been awarded in the sixth round of Japan’s large scale solar tender. The projects range in size from 300 kW to 68.6 MW.

Japan imports virtually all coal, liquified natural gas, and oil that fuel the power plants which provide 70% of the country electrical power. Although nuclear power emits zero greenhouse gases, there is strong opposition to the use of nuclear energy, following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

How does Japan reduce greenhouse gas emission without nuclear power and limited renewable energy resources? Japan is facing a significant energy conundrum.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”


[1] Japan Population (2021) –  January 10, 2021

[2] Japan – The World Bank Group

[3] Gross Domestic Product 2019 – World Bank DataBank

[4] Japan – US Energy Information Agency

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