Yokkaichi Port, Japan – Imported coal and loading equipment at Chubu Coal Centre in spring 2019
The Kiko Network, a climate advocacy group, estimated coal would fall from 26% to 20% of Japan’s electricity generation as a result of the policy. It predicted carbon dioxide emissions would drop by as much 106 million tons, or almost 10% of Japan’s total greenhouse gas output.
Yet coal still figures to be a crucial part of the Japanese electric grid after 2030. Kiko said it anticipated 30 gigawatts of Japanese coal capacity will remain in operation in a decade. That’s about two-thirds of the country’s existing coal capacity.
“The government is finally beginning to engage in restricting coal-fired power, and we welcome this move,” Kiko President Mie Asaoka said in a statement. “In order to meet the 1.5-2 [degree Celsius] goal of the Paris Agreement, developed countries such as Japan must phase out all coal-fired power plants by 2030, including the plants under construction or being planned, regardless of their efficiency.”
Japan agreed to cut its emissions 26% below 2013 levels by 2030 as part of the Paris climate accord. Climate activists have long questioned whether the government could meet that promise given the expansion of the country’s coal industry in recent years. Japanese emissions fell at an average annual rate of 1% between 2008 and 2018, according to BP PLC.
Japan has installed roughly 4.3 gigawatts of coal capacity since 2011. Another 9.3 GW is under construction while 2.6 GW has been permitted. The new plants would emit 2 gigatons of carbon dioxide if they ran for 40 years, said Christine Shearer, who leads coal research at Global Energy Monitor, an environmental nonprofit that tracks fossil fuel development. Japan reported total energy emissions of 1.1 gigaton in 2019.
The decision to close inefficient plants could have wider implications for the coal industry.
Mining companies in the western U.S. have long looked at Japan as a potential buyer of American coal. Efforts to export coal from ports along the West Coast have floundered in recent years. A shutdown would only make that job harder, said Clark Williams-Derry, an analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, which supports a transition to clean energy.
“It’s just one more blow to an already over stressed market and one more nail in the coffin of the U.S. coal export dream,” he said.
Reprinted from Climatewire with the permission of E&E News. Copyright 2020. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals at www.eenews.net.