Japan’s Daunting Energy Challenges

Country Overview

The State of Japan, also known as the “Land of the Rising Sun” is an archipelago nation located in the northwest Pacific Ocean. The population of Japan is approximately 122.99 million people.

In 2022, Japan’s economy was ranked 3rd in gross domestic product (GDP) in the world. The country’s economy is dependent on the export of cars, integrated circuits, motor vehicle parts, specialized machinery, photo lab equipment, and large construction vehicles.

Environmental 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 further increased concerns over nuclear power plants across Japan.

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

In 2020, the Japan committed to become a carbon-neutral country by 2050. The Japanese government plans to use carbon-capture technology and hydrogen to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Power Generation Capabilities

In 2021, 100% of the people in Japan had access to electricity. In 2022, utilities used natural gas (34.9%), coal (33.7%), renewable energy (22.0%), nuclear energy (5.0%) and refined petroleum (4.4%) to generate electricity in Japan. Solar, hydropower, and biomass are the dominant types of renewable energy used to generate electricity in Japan.

Recent renewable energy projects in Japan include:

  • 180 MW Solar Project – In February 2023, Tokyo Gas announced plans to build the nation’s largest solar project at the Narita International Airport in Japan’s Chiba prefecture. The solar project will be commissioned in stages. The final stage of this solar project is forecast to be commissioned in 2045.
  • 139 MW Offshore Wind Farm – In January 2023, Japanese joint venture, Akita Offshore Wind Corporation commissioned the Akita Noshiro Offshore Wind project, which is located off the northwest coast of Japan.
  • 102 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.
  • 32 MW Solar Project – In April 2023, Japanese multinational corporation, Toshiba commissioned Yatsubo Solar Power Plant in the Tochigi Prefecture.
  • 26 MW Solar Project – In April 2023, Toshiba commissioned the Ikeda Solar Power Plant in the Tochigi Prefecture.
  • 7 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.
  • 4 MW Solar Project – In January 2023, People’s Republic of China solar company, Xiamen Mibet New Energy commissioned an agrivoltaic solar project at a vineyard in Fukushima

Conclusions

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

Japan imports almost all of the nation’s fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) which is used for power generation, heating, and transportation. In 2022, Japan imported U.S. $54.9 Billion of crude oil, U.S. $40.2 Billion of liquified natural gas (LNG), U.S. $22.2 Billion of coal, and U.S. $U.S. $18.1 Billion of refined petroleum.

In 2022, Japan used fossil fuels to generate 73.0% of the nation’s electricity. In 2021, Japan imported 9% of its liquified natural gas and 4% of its crude oil from Russia.

On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, prompting the European Union, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand to place economic sanctions on Russian imports and exports. As a result, the crude oil and natural gas prices increased by over 50% from May 2021 to May 2022.

Studies indicate green hydrogen fuel and carbon capture systems are promising technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Although promising, green hydrogen fuel and carbon capture systems are still unproven technologies.

Will carbon capture systems and green hydrogen fuels enable Japan to become a carbon-neutral nation by 2050? Will costly fossil fuel imports devastate Japan’s economy? The Land of the Rising Sun is truly facing daunting energy challenges.

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, podcast, and television stations from New York City to Los Angeles on numerous energy related topics.

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