Japan’s plans to develop its renewable energy industry are lagging much of the world, as the nation has “prioritized keeping the status quo for fear of change,” Foreign Minister Taro Kono said.
Japan wants renewable energy to account for 22 percent to 24 percent of its overall energy mix by 2030, while the global average today is already 24 percent, Kono said Sunday at an International Renewable Energy Agency meeting in Abu Dhabi. “As Japanese foreign minister, I consider these circumstances lamentable.”
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Japan held its first-ever solar power auction last November, with the aim of reducing costs in one of the most expensive countries to generate electricity from the sun. But the results showed “underwhelming demand,” according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Government incentives have been decreasing since their introduction in 2012 following the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster. The support, known as feed-in-tariff, cost the Japanese public up to $24 billion last year, and costs are expected to increase, Kono said.
“We need bold investments and institutional reforms to enhance the transmission network and electric power exchange between regional utilities for the larger deployment of renewables,” he said.
Kono’s comments came as the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which is in charge of setting Japan’s energy policy, is reviewing its overall policies.
Double the Cost
“The Japanese government’s basic stance to introduce as much clean energy as possible remains unchanged and we will move forward without being satisfied with status quo,” Takuya Yamazaki, director of the renewable energy division at the industry ministry, said by phone Monday.
Yamazaki said the cost of renewables in Japan is still twice as expensive as Europe and the U.S. The target for clean energy to account for as much as 24 percent by 2030 is “pretty ambitious as we need to almost double the share of non-hydro renewables,” he said.
Kono said there is some progress in Japan.
The country is leading research and development for a new type of “printable” photovoltaic solar cell that may drive further cost reductions in the PV market, he said. A Japanese university has also developed an “all-solid-state battery” for the auto industry, and for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japan plans use hydrogen to fuel passenger vehicles and buses for the event.