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Renewables goals for 2030 rather low

March 11, 2015

FOUR YEARS AFTER: Ministry forecasts 20% green power by 2030; experts criticize goal as too low

March 11, 2015




Twenty percent of the electricity produced in Japan 15 years from now will be renewable energy, according to the economy ministry, but some industry experts said the figure needs to be higher.

The ministry announced the estimate on March 10 during a Subcommittee on Long-term Energy Supply-demand Outlook meeting to discuss the nation's future energy plans.

Of an estimated 1 million gigawatt-hours to be produced in fiscal 2030, renewable energy will account for around 200,000 GWh, according to the ministry.

The 20 percent total falls short of the goal the government set in April 2014 in its basic energy plan, in which it anticipated "a standard outpacing the previous goal," which had been set at 20 percent for fiscal 2030.

Some subcommittee members pointed out that the new estimate at just 20 percent doesn't "outpace" this goal.

"We should strive for 30 percent," said Takeo Kikkawa, professor of economics at Hitotsubashi University's Graduate School of Commerce and Management.

Kikkawa proposed such policies as utilizing power lines that would be out of service after the decommissioning of nuclear power plants.

Power generated through renewable energy sources in fiscal 2013 totaled 100,400 GWh, accounting for about 10 percent of all the electricity produced that year.

According to the government's new estimate, solar power produced in fiscal 2030 will total 70,000 GWh. The figures were estimated by combining the “maximum acceptable quotas” set by the 10 main electric power utilities of Japan.

Maximum acceptable quotas are calculated by assigning part of the power demand to established types of power plants, such as nuclear, thermal and pumped-storage hydroelectric, and the rest to relatively new renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.

The estimate does not include the effects of new regulations set by the ministry, such as the requirement to temporarily reduce power generation to introduce more solar energy.

Eyeing the establishment of wind power facilities currently being assessed on their environmental impact, the government estimates that at least 10,000 GWh will be produced through wind power in fiscal 2030.

Costing relatively little to set up, wind power plants have been spreading across the globe, but power lines to bring the electricity made by wind turbines to urban areas often need costly upgrades.

According to the ministry, introducing an additional 10,300 GWh of wind power in Hokkaido and the Tohoku region will require an additional 1.17 trillion yen ($9.65 billion).

Estimates on geothermal energy and hydropower, along with biomass power from such sources as wood chips, were made in consideration of such factors as eased restrictions on these power sources in the future.

At the March 10 meeting, some experts were concerned over possible increases in electricity bills after the spread of renewable energy.

The ministry will continue reviewing such issues as introducing more solar and wind power projects, and the costs of reinforcing power lines.


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