TOKYO — Japan is set to ask thermal power plants to lower their outputs to 20% or 30% of their capacity, likely during sunny spells in the spring and fall seasons, Nikkei has learned, in an effort to expand renewable energy generation.
Thermal power plants are usually asked by the government to lower their output to below 50% of their capacity when supply outstrips demand. By asking such companies to cut their output to even lower levels, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is signaling that more renewable energy should instead be generated.
In Kyushu island where solar energy is used more widely than elsewhere, power production — both thermal and renewables — was restricted for 60 days in 2020 due to worries of oversupply. Amid the nationwide push for decarbonization, solar power generation is expected to grow and similar restrictions are set to be put in place.
METI is expected to formulate a concrete plan within the next few weeks and it plans to apply the rule to new thermal power plants as early as spring next year. The grace period of up to three years will be granted to existing thermal power plants. If such plants are unable to lower their output, METI will ask them to halt operation altogether.
A calculation based on information from METI found that by lowering the output of thermal power plants to 20% from 50%, renewable energy providers will be able to generate an additional 1.5 million kilowatts of electricity, or two percentage points more than the current level.
Around 270 million kilowatts of electricity is generated by thermal and nuclear power plants in Japan. Renewable energy accounts for 67 million kilowatts or around 25% of the total power generation.
Restricting output and halting solar power generation could hit the bottom lines of power producers, such as Tohoku Electric Power and Shikoku Electric Power. METI wants to reduce such risks for business operators by luring more renewable energy investment, as part of government efforts to shift to greener power.