(Sankei: February 17, 2016 – p. 2)
The Ministry of the Environment has recently changed its position and given the green light to construction of new coal-fired thermal power plants. To ensure a stable supply of electricity, it is important to secure a range of energy sources and combine them in a well-balanced fashion. Construction of new facilities can help secure stable energy sources. The ministry has made a realistic decision that should be welcomed.
The power industry has a number of projects in the pipeline to build new coal-fired thermal power plants, as the electricity retail market will be fully liberalized in April.
The Ministry of the Environment had opposed five projects, claiming that construction of coal-fired power plants would make it difficult to meet the goal for reducing CO2 emissions. But it made a turnabout when 36 power companies, including new market entrants, decided to create tougher, self-imposed regulations. They have set up a consultative body to set up their own emission-control standards and made it mandatory to report to the government on their progress in reducing emissions. They are also considering disclosing the names of companies that fail to meet the goals.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is also planning to revise the law on saving energy to require power companies to equip new facilities with high-standard, emission-control technologies. Japan is a global leader in developing high-standard, coal-fired thermal power technologies.
Construction of new facilities is necessary for Japan to continue research and development on these technologies and transfer the technological knowhow to developing countries. At the same time, measures to decommission outdated facilities should be implemented.
According to an energy composition policy endorsed by the cabinet, the government has set a target of sourcing 26% electricity from coal-fired thermal power plants in fiscal 2018, vis-à-vis the ratios of 20-22% in the case of nuclear and solar energy. Coal-fired thermal plants will remain an important energy source in the future.
But it is also important to keep in mind the use of nuclear power. It generates electricity at a cost lower than coal and emits fewer greenhouse gases. Putting nuclear power plants back onto the grid after confirming their safety will help lower electricity charges and reduce the cost burdens on households and businesses. Japan must make the best use of various electricity sources. This knowhow is indispensable for the resource-scare country. (Abridged)