Coal Expansion In Japan

While most of the world’s countries are decreasing their reliance on coal in favour of cheap, reliable, and clean renewable technology, Japan has gone the other way. In fact, Japan is the one of the few countries in the G20 to be developing new coal power plants.

In the last two decades, Japan’s reliance on coal has increased steadily. After the tragic Fukushima nuclear accident in March 2011, Japan increased the use of coal in its energy mix and promoted to construct new coal power plants.

To support this, the government changed several policies that positioned coal power as an important baseload electricity source. These include the ‘fast tracking’ of environmental impact assessments for new coal plants, and increasing financial support for related business.

A surge of new coal plants
in Japan

With government support, 50 new coal plants have been included in Japan’s power development plan since 2012. While some of these have been canceled or switched to other fuels, others are still in the construction or planning stage.

So far, 13 units have been cancelled or switched fuel (7.0 GW), 12 are already operating (1.3 GW), 10 units are at the planning stage (6.4 GW) and 15 units under construction (8.6 GW).

The Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Foreign Affairs have both expressed concern about new coal plants and their lack of compliance with the Paris Agreement. In fact, Japan’s Nationally-Determined Contribution under Paris requires it to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2030 from 2013 levels.

Here are 5 targeted coal fired power projects that civil society, together with local communities, are fighting against to stop construction plans. Those are all planned to start operation after 2020.

These projects need to be canceled right away!

Akita Power Plant, Akita-city in Akita

  • Companies:KENES, Marubeni
  • Capacity: 650 MW x2
  • Operation start year: 2024

Large scale power project (1300 MW), emitting 8.66 Mt-CO2/year, is planned in Akita prefecture, by KENES (Kanden Energy Solution) and Marubeni. It is reported that Marubeni considers to withdraw from the project, however, no official announcements have been made yet. Surprisingly, less than 30% of the local residents are aware of the project, while they are likely to be affected by air pollution.

Kobe Power Plant, Kobe-city in Hyogo

  • Companies:Kobelco Power Kobe 2
  • Capacity: 650 MW x2
  • Operation start year: 2021, 2022

A major project (1300 MW) in Hyogo prefecture by Kobelco Power Kobe 2, only 400m away from residential area, is currently under construction. It will emit 6.92 Mt-CO2/year. Civil lawsuit and administrative lawsuit (here) have been filed by local residents. Plaintiffs includes age 2 baby to over 80 senior person. Health risks towards local people is the major concern.

Saijo Power Plant, Saijo-city in Ehime

  • Companies:Shikoku Electric Power
  • Capacity: 500MW
  • Operation start year: 2023

Project in Ehime prefecture by Shikoku Electric Power (500 MW) has just started construction in late May of 2019. It will emit 2.46 Mt-CO2 yearly once it’s built. Decline in electricity demand is likely to cause this project to be a stranded asset. Utilizing renewable energy in Shikoku Electric Power region will be much feasible.

Ube Power Plant, Ube-city in Yamaguchi

  • Companies:J-Power, Ube Industries
  • Capacity: 600 MW x2
  • Operation start year: 2026

J-Power and Ube Industries project in Yamaguchi prefecture (1200 MW) will emit 7.2 Mt-CO2 per year once it’s built. Osaka Gas was financing 45% of the project, but have withdrawn on April 24th, 2019. However, J-power intends  to continue the project and aims to revise plan to scale down. Process will be delayed and that raises question about the adequacy of the project.

Yokosuka Power Plants, Yokosuka-city in Kanagawa

  • Companies:JERA
  • Capacity: 650 MW x2
  • Operation start year: 2023

This is the only project remained in Tokyo-bay. JERA, financed by TEPCO (51% financed by Japanese government) and Chubu Electric Power,  plans to construct a major coal-fired power plant (1300 MW) in Kanagawa prefecture with a yearly CO2 emission of 7.26 Mt-CO2, contributing to 0.02% of the world’s total emission. Premature death during the 40 year operation is estimated to be 3500 people. Financed by JERA owns 40% of Japan’s thermal power plants. Local groups in Tokyo bay are strongly opposing the projects. 45 local residents have filed an administrative lawsuit on May 27th, 2019.

No Coal Japan demands

Japan can be a renewable energy powerhouse, but it must: