ARKANSAS, Oct 14 (Future Headlines)- Japan is committed to reducing its total carbon emissions by 46% by 2030 from 2013 levels, with a long-term goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. To accomplish these ambitious targets, Japan must undergo significant transformations in its energy systems to transition towards clean power sources. However, Japan faces unique challenges in this endeavor that differentiate it from other countries working towards similar emissions reductions.
One of the most critical aspects of a successful energy transition is the capacity of a country’s power system to adapt to rapid changes in energy sources while maintaining consistent supplies to consumers. Japan’s challenges in this context are exacerbated by the state of its national power system, which has been strained by the decline in nuclear power generation since the Fukushima disaster in 2011.
Historically, nuclear power contributed to approximately 25% of Japan’s electricity generation. However, the Fukushima incident led to a sharp decline in public confidence in the safety of nuclear reactors, resulting in the shutdown of most nuclear plants. This forced power producers to increase their reliance on fossil fuels, primarily coal and natural gas, which accounted for 73% of Japan’s electricity generation in 2022, making it one of the world’s largest consumers of fossil fuels.
- High Reliance on Fossil Fuels
Japan’s high dependence on fossil fuels is second only to India among the world’s largest economies. In comparison, China relies on fossil fuels for 65% of its electricity, while the United States, Japan’s economic peers, depend on them for 59% of their electricity. Both China and the United States have made significant progress in deploying renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, contributing to more sustainable electricity generation mixes.
Japan is ranked sixth in total renewable power generation and faces geographic limitations for large renewable installations. The country has limited available land for large-scale renewable projects and, as a result, is focusing on rooftop solar systems as an immediate solution for boosting renewable energy generation. Over the long term, Japan plans to increase wind power generation, particularly from offshore locations. However, delays in commissioning the country’s first floating offshore wind farm have jeopardized the wind industry’s goal of generating one-third of Japan’s power by 2050.
- Slow Progress in Clean Energy Generation
While Japan is making steady progress in clean energy generation, the reduction in energy demand may be even slower. The transportation sector remains a major contributor to fossil fuel consumption, particularly in passenger cars that are still primarily powered by combustion engines.
Despite government incentives, electric vehicles (EVs) accounted for only 3% of total car sales in Japan in 2022, compared to nearly 30% in China, 21% in Europe, and 8% in the United States. Japan’s auto sector lags behind in contributing to national decarbonization efforts.
- Industrial Sector Carbon Intensity
Japan’s industrial sector continues to rely on fossil fuels with a carbon intensity of 54.2 grams of carbon dioxide per megajoule in 2020, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Although Japan has a lower industrial carbon intensity than China, the latter has managed to reduce its intensity by over 13% since 2010, whereas Japan’s reduction over the same period was less than 2%.
Japan’s industrial sector, which includes energy-intensive sectors like steel production, shipbuilding, and car manufacturing, is essential to the country’s economy. These industries are in the early stages of transitioning to cleaner energy sources, with a particular focus on green hydrogen as a power source and input.
- Government Initiatives and Commercial Actions
To accelerate its clean energy transition, Japan has introduced government schemes like carbon trading systems. However, the progress will largely depend on the decisions made by power producers, car buyers, and commercial energy users. These stakeholders must play a pivotal role in determining Japan’s progress in achieving its energy transition goals. Japan still has a considerable distance to cover before realizing its carbon neutrality aspirations, but continued efforts and commitment to clean energy are essential to success.
Reporting by Kevin Wood; Editing by Sarah White