On Dec. 10, the Ministry of the Environment announced that Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions decreased in FY2020 by 5.1% from the previous fiscal year. Emissions have been decreasing by that margin since FY2009 after Lehman Brothers collapsed, but some say this is a small decrease, considering the impact of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Because nuclear power plants were shut down because of periodic inspections and other factors, thermal power made up 76.3% of Japan’s energy mix [in FY2020], up 0.7 percentage points from the previous year. Decarbonization of power sources remains far off.
The facility utilization rate at nuclear power plants in 2020 was 15.5%, down from 21.4% in 2019. Although eight nuclear power plant reactors were operable in FY2020, Kansai Electric Power’s Takahama Power Plant Unit 4 and Oi Power Plant Units 3 and 4 as well as Kyushu Electric Power’s Genkai Power Plant Units 3 and 4 and Sendai Power Plant Unit 2 were taken offline one after another during regular inspections. Shikoku Electric Power’s Ikata Nuclear Power Plant Unit 3, which has been under inspection since FY2019, was also not online.
Nuclear power made up 3.9% of Japan’s energy mix in FY2020, down from 6.2% in FY2019. Renewable energy as a percentage of the overall energy mix increased by only 1.7 points. This means the increase in renewables did not offset the halting of nuclear power plants. The government has set the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in FY2030 by 46% compared with FY2013 levels. To achieve this, the government aims for renewable energy to make up 36-38% and nuclear power to make up 20-22% of Japan’s total energy mix. The outlook for achieving this is poor.
Looking at total greenhouse gas emissions by sector, emissions from the industrial and transport sectors have declined significantly due to the restrictions on economic activities and people’s movement. As socioeconomic activities begin to resume, there are concerns that energy consumption will increase and emissions will balloon again.