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Editorial: Find way to secure power supply while considering environment

  • August 26, 2017
  • , The Japan News , 7:42 p.m.
  • English Press

How should the nation secure a stable supply of electricity while giving consideration to the protection of the environment? Both the government and utility companies must seriously work on this issue.

 

A panel of experts for the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has begun discussions to review the nation’s basic energy plan, which serves as a set of guidelines for national energy policies. One focal point is measures to take advantage of coal-fired power generation as a baseload power source.

 

Coal-fired thermal power enables stable fuel procurement and has low generation costs. But this energy source poses challenges for the environment. For example, it emits twice the amount of carbon dioxide as liquefied natural gas thermal power generation.

 

Japan, which is a signatory to the Paris Agreement, a framework to tackle climate change, has set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in fiscal 2030 by 26 percent from fiscal 2013 levels.

 

The nation has about 150 coal-fired thermal power facilities. Coal accounts for about 32 percent of the nation’s total power output, exceeding a government-set target for fiscal 2030 by 6 percentage points. Furthermore, plans are under way to build more than 40 new coal-fired thermal power units.

 

Japan is urged to exercise wisdom to prevent an excessive reliance on coal-fired thermal power, in line with an international trend away from coal.

 

This month, the Environment Ministry submitted to the economy, trade and industry minister a statement of opinion calling for an additional reduction in CO2 emissions in relation to Chubu Electric Power Co.’s plan to build a major coal-fired thermal power plant.

 

Restart more N-reactors

 

The industry ministry, which has the authority to approve the plan, then requested that Chubu Electric increase the number of obsolete thermal plants it will abolish under the company’s current plan. This is the first time the ministry has mentioned the future of power plants not subject to environmental impact assessments.

 

Chubu Electric and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. have proceeded with the full integration of their thermal power operations. Their thermal power generation is expected to make up half of the nation’s total amount. If the two companies cooperate, they could create more room to replace aging thermal power plants with cutting-edge units that produce relatively fewer CO2 emissions.

 

It is reasonable that the industry ministry, which was cautious about the Environment Ministry’s stance on Chubu Electric’s plan, has presented a realistic proposal of ways to use coal-fired thermal power.

 

Hopes are high that the industry ministry will urge other major utilities that are planning to build new thermal power plants to cooperate in protecting the environment. It is hoped that the expert panel will deepen discussions on issues, including the practical use of technology to contain CO2 emissions from coal-fired thermal power underground at high pressure.

 

In the basic energy plan, how much weight is given to nuclear power generation over the medium to long term is a major theme.

 

For energy security, the use of nuclear power is essential. Nuclear power generation, which produces almost no greenhouse gases, can help the nation achieve the target set under the Paris Agreement.

 

To meet a target set by the government for nuclear power to account for 20 percent to 22 percent of the energy mix for fiscal 2030, about 30 nuclear reactors need to be reactivated. Only five reactors are currently in operation. If nuclear power is to be used as a baseload power source, efforts should be increased to restart reactors.

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