By Syndication The Washington Post, The Japan News-Yomiuri
The government plans to gradually close about 100 of 114 inefficient coal-fired power plants, which produce huge volumes of carbon dioxide. Coal-fired thermal power had been positioned as a major source of electricity that can smoothly adjust to fluctuations in power demand, and the government had not presented any concrete plans to reduce these plants, until now.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama will announce the plan soon.
A total of 140 coal-fired power plants operate in Japan. Twenty-six of them are new and highly efficient at generating electricity, so they will be maintained or expanded.
The remaining 114 older plants, which were constructed up until the first half of the 1990s and emit a lot of carbon dioxide, will be mothballed or shut down. An expert panel will be established to compile a timeline and detail methods for ending operations at these plants. The government plans to amend relevant laws, ordinances and systems as early as next year to usher in this significant shift in Japan's energy policy.
Advanced nations in Europe have been front and center in setting specific targets for reducing or eliminating coal-powered plants based on the Paris Agreement, a 2015 international framework for tackling global warming. The Japanese government had been criticized for its passive approach because it had not taken steps to cut the number of such plants.
An upper limit on how much electricity inefficient plants can generate will be set for each company that operates a coal-fired power plant. This cap is expected to be gradually lowered. The plants will be unable to generate more electricity than this limit, which will lead to inefficient plants closing down or operations being suspended. The government will consider a preferential treatment system for companies that quickly decide to close their plants.
It is expected that the majority of inefficient coal-fired plants will ultimately be scrapped. However, in some cases, the government might request that plants suspend operations rather than shut permanently, to ensure an available supply of electricity during a disaster. Inefficient plants will be allowed to continue operating when needed in certain areas, such as remote islands.
Coal-fired power generation accounted for 32% of all electricity produced in Japan in fiscal 2018. Only plants fired by liquefied natural gas generated a bigger share, at 38%. While the phasing out of inefficient plants will lower the proportion of coal-fired thermal power, the government will increase the volume of electricity created by renewable energy sources and nuclear power.
Renewables, such as solar and wind power, accounted for 17% of Japan's total electricity generation in fiscal 2018. The government aims to increase this figure to between 22% and 24% by fiscal 2030.