Coal Still Accounts for 32% of Japan’s Electricity SupplyEconomy Politics Society Environment
Japan maintains a heavy dependence on fossil fuels. According to the Energy White Paper 2021 published by the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, the composition of Japan’s power sources in fiscal 2019 was as follows: coal 31.8% (326.2 billion kWh), oil 6.8% (69.2 billion kWh), liquefied natural gas 37.1% (380.3 billion kWh), nuclear 6.2% (63.8 billion kWh), hydro 7.8% (79.6 billion kWh), and “new” forms of sustainable energy 10.3% (105.7 billion kWh).
Compared to fiscal 2018, the proportion of fossil fuels decreased slightly while that of “new” sustainable energy rose, but fossil fuels still generate around three quarters of Japan’s electricity. The use of coal in particular, which is seen as the most harmful fossil fuel, remained high at over 30% of all electricity generation.
A decade has passed since the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Since then, only five nuclear power stations with a total of nine reactors have been restarted through the consent of their local communities: Ōi and Takahama (Kansai Electric Power Company), Genkai and Sendai (Kyūshū Electric Power Company), and Ikata (Shikoku Electric Power Company). Meanwhile, twenty-one reactors have been decommissioned since the 2011 disaster.
The government has set a goal of securing 10 gigawatts of offshore wind power, the equivalent to 10 nuclear reactors, but it may take time to coordinate with the fishing industry and aquaculture businesses to find suitable shallow coastal areas. In addition, as a mountainous country with relatively little land available, Japan’s locations for large-scale mega-solar plants are limited. Thus, the country must solve a complex array of simultaneous equations to relieve its coal dependence.
(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: The Hitachinaka Thermal Power Station in Tōkai, Ibaraki Prefecture. © Pixta.)