Land of the Rising Sun’s Carbon-Neutral Energy Conundrum

National Economy

The population of the “Land of the Rising Sun,” State of Japan is approximately 125.72 million people[1]. In 2021, 100% of the people in this East Asian, island country had access to electricity[2].

In 2021, Japan’s economy was ranked 3rd in gross domestic product (GDP) in the world[3]. The country’s economy is dependent on the export[4] of cars, vehicle parts, integrated circuits, machinery, photo lab equipment, large construction vehicles, hot-rolled iron, and electric capacitors.

Environment Policies

In 1945, the United States dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending World War II. The nuclear holocaust left an indelible fear of nuclear power on the people of Japan, even today.

In 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred approximately twenty miles off the east coast of Japan, creating a tsunami that devastated the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. This nuclear disaster increased concern over nuclear power across Japan.

In 2016, Japan signed the Paris Climate Agreement[5], committing to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 26% below 2013 levels by 2030.

In 2019, the Japan committed to become carbon-neutral by 2050. The Japanese government plans to use carbon-capture technology and hydrogen to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2021, utilities used natural gas (32,1 %), coal (30.6 %), renewable energy (26.2 %), nuclear energy (6.3 %) and oil (4.8 %) to generate electricity in Japan[6]. Solar, hydropower, geothermal, and wind are the primary types of renewable energy used to generate electricity in Japan.

Recent renewable energy projects in Japan include:

  • 6 MW Offshore Wind Farm – Japanese joint venture, Akita Offshore Wind Corporation is continuing work on the project in the Akita prefecture. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2022.
  • 3 MW Solar + Energy Storage Project – In October 2020, Japanese company Softbank commissioned a solar plus energy storage project in the northern island of Hokkaido.
  • 40 MW Solar Projects – In July 2020, Japanese engineering firm, Toko Electrical Construction commissioned two interconnected solar plants in the Fukushima Prefecture.
  • 9 MW Solar Project – Toshiba is continuing work on the Yatsubo Solar Power Plant in the Tochigi Prefecture. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by April 2023.
  • 2 MW Solar Project – Japanese multinational company, Toshiba is continuing work on the Ikeda Solar Power Plant in the Tochigi Prefecture. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by April 2023.
  • 4 MW Wind Project – In March 2021, Japanese infrastructure company, Ichigo commissioned the Ichigo Yonezawa Itaya ECO Power Plant near the border of the Yamagata and Fukushima prefectures.
  • 2 MW Floating Solar Project – In March 2021, Japanese multinational company, Mitsui commissioned a floating solar array in the Kagawa Prefecture.

Japan imports virtually all fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas). In 2021, 67.5 % of Japan’s electricity was generated from fossil fuels.

Japan is an aerially small, densely populated, industrialized country, which has limited renewable energy resources. Although, nuclear power plants emit zero greenhouse gases, there is strong public opposition to any form of nuclear energy in Japan.

Initial studies indicate green hydrogen fuel and carbon capture technologies are promising at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Although promising, green hydrogen fuel and carbon capture technologies are unproven technology.

Will Japan be able to achieve the goal of becoming carbon-neutral nation by 2050 without nuclear power or unproven green hydrogen and carbon capture technologies?

Japan may be facing a carbon-neutral energy conundrum.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

 

Jack Kerfoot is a scientist, energy expert, and author of the book FUELING AMERICA, An Insider’s Journey and articles for The Hill, one of the largest independent political news sites in the United States. He has been interviewed on over 100 radio and television stations from New York City to Los Angeles on numerous energy related topics.

[1] Japan Population (2022) –  June 18, 2022, www.worldometers.info

[2] The World Bank Group, Access to Electricity (% of Population – Japan

[3] Gross Domestic Product By Country 2021 – Worldometer

[4] The Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC) – Japan

[5] Carbon Brief – “2015: Tracking Country Climate Pledges”

[6] Our World In Data, Japan:  Energy Country Profile by Hanna Ritchie and Max Roser

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