Japan is moving toward doubling its ratio of renewable energy by fiscal 2030 in revisions to its basic energy plan expected to be made this summer.
A panel of experts met on May 13 at the economy ministry to discuss a proposal for the new plan under which renewable energy sources would be set somewhere between 35 and 39 percent for fiscal 2030.
In fiscal 2019, renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, supplied about 18 percent of Japan’s power demands.
Japan is expected to announce a proposal on revisions to its basic energy plan in time for the Group of Seven summit scheduled to start from June 11 in Britain.
Under the current basic energy plan, the goal for fiscal 2030 was set at between 22 and 24 percent so the revision would mark a major increase for renewable energy as a base-load energy source.
The ratio for nuclear energy is expected to be maintained at between 20 and 22 percent. Despite public opposition to the resumption of nuclear plant operations, nuclear power does not emit any greenhouse gases.
Thermal power plants fired by coal, natural gas and petroleum emit huge volumes of greenhouse gases. Subsequently, cutting back on that energy source would go a long way toward fulfilling the pledge made by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in October 2020 to have Japan reach net zero emissions in greenhouse gases by 2050.
Expanding the ratio of renewable energy will not be easy because most of the available land for large solar panel facilities has already been taken up.
Cost is another factor in the way of a major expansion of renewable energy.
The Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth released various scenarios of future cost projections at the economy ministry experts’ panel meeting.
If renewable energy is expanded, additional expenses would be needed for power transmission lines and storage batteries. One scenario of moving totally to renewable energy by 2050 projected doing so would cause electricity fees to increase fourfold.
To avoid such major increases in electricity expenses, technological advances would be needed to bring down the cost of generating renewable energy.
Other issues also pose a hurdle for having nuclear energy contribute 20 percent of the base-load energy in 2030. To reach that figure, about 30 nuclear reactors would have to be in operation.
But after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011, safety standards have been made much stricter and only nine reactors so far have resumed operations. Due to that, nuclear energy only contributed about 6 percent of all energy sources in fiscal 2019.
In the last basic energy plan, the government said dependence on nuclear energy would be reduced as much as possible. Whether that wording is maintained in the revised basic energy plan will also be a key point as some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are calling for the inclusion of constructing new nuclear reactors in the plan.
(This article was written by Junichiro Nagasaki and Toshio Kawada.)