Japan laid out ambitions to boost the share of renewables in its power mix to more than one third by the end of the decade under a draft energy plan that analysts said could prove challenging to enact.
The world’s third-largest economy aims to get 36-38% of its power from renewables by 2030, increasing a former goal of 22-24% and up from about 18% in 2019.
Its draft revised energy plan also sees a big reduction in the role of liquified natural gas (LNG), with an expected contribution of 20% down from 27% previously envisaged. Coal, though also a reduced presence under the new plan, is still seen as providing 19% of Japan’s power, with nuclear’s expected role unchanged at 20-22%.
Alex Whitworth, research director at Wood Mackenzie, said the renewables share target “is challenging but could be possible with more government support. The previous 22-24% renewables target is from 2018, so is quite dated.
“Increasing renewables share will be expensive as onshore wind and solar resources are limited in Japan. So expensive distributed solar and offshore wind will need to take up the slack and are still at a premium to other power options,” Whitworth said.
Whitworth said the biggest challenge to the plan could prove to be the nuclear element, with Wood Mackenzie only expecting a 9% share as Japan struggles to ramp its fleet back up after the Fukushima disaster. “Safety regulations, public opposition and rising costs make the 20% nuclear target incredibly challenging to meet. Over-optimism on nuclear makes the plan look unrealistic and could undermine plans to reduce coal and gas share.”
Isshu Kikuma, Japan analyst for BloombergNEF, said expected strong growth in solar and the government’s offshore wind programme, which wants to award 10GW by 2030, would help the nation in its missions meet the goals.
But Kikuma added that onshore wind is expected to lag due to onerous approval processes, and would need policies to help speed up development times if it was to play a full part in helping to meet the increased renewables share.
The final energy plan is expected to be finalised later this year followind examination of the plan, which also for the first time includes a role for hydrogen in the power mix.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said the country aims to hit net zero emissions by 2050 and it in April boosted its emissions reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement, while also pledging to cut red tape that holds back renewable deployment.
Environmental group Greenpeace criticised the plan as unambitious.
Greenpeace Japan programme director Hisayo Takada said: “Increasing renewable energy merely to 36-38% and failing to commit to ending fossil fuel, Japan has become a roadblock to advancing international cooperation in tackling the climate crisis.
“Japan must phase out all coal power domestically by 2030 and cease all public financing of coal-fired operations domestically and abroad, including the export of coal-fired power generation technology.”