Still Depends on Coal
As Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared in October 2020 that Japan would move toward carbon dioxide emission to zero by 2050. However, Japan is still depending on coal power generation. Among 50 units as they were planned later than 2012, 15 units had been canceled or changed fuels, but some of others have been operated according to plans. Even after the government committed net zero by 2050, few units still remain in the planning stage and some are under construction.
In order for Japan to achieve the “Net-zero 2050” target, it is essential to phase-out coal-fired power plants by 2030.
“Japan Beyond Coal” tracks the number of coal-fired power plants/units in Japan and shows a countdown every month.
A surge of new coal plants
Here are 3 plants we focus on their progress: civil society, together with local communities, are fighting against to stop construction.
Constructing (Both Kobe and Yokosuka cases are fighting in courts.)
Kobe Power Plant, Kobe-city in Hyogo
- Companies：Kobelco Power Kobe 2
- Capacity: 650 MW x2
- Operation start year: 2021, 2022
This major project (2 units of 650 MW ) in Hyogo prefecture by Kobelco Power Kobe 2 locates only 400m away from residential areas where historically had serious air pollution issue. These two units are currently under construction and will emit 6.92 Mt-CO2/year in total. Civil lawsuit and administrative lawsuit have been filed by local residents (more info. from here) since 2018. Plaintiffs include age 2 baby to over 80 senior. The residents’ claim was dismissed and the administrative lawsuit was concluded on March 15, 2021. Residents appealed to the Osaka High Court on March 26. Civil lawsuit is also continuing.
Yokosuka Power Plants, Yokosuka-city in Kanagawa
- Capacity: 650 MW x2
- Operation start year: 2023, 2024
This is the only project remaining 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. In October 2020, JERA announced that it takes on the challenge of achieving, by 2050, virtually zero CO2 emissions from JERA’s operations in Japan and overseas. However JERA is proceeding with construction of the power plant in Yokosuka despite the opposition movement of the residents. Premature death during the 40 year operation of this plant is estimated to be 3500 people. Local groups in Tokyo Bay are strongly opposing the projects. Since 2019, 48 plaintiffs, led by Yokosuka citizens, are conducting trials against the country (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; METI) that issued a definite declaration in the EIA procedures. (Here is more info.)
Saijo Power Plant, Saijo-city in Ehime
- Companies：Shikoku Electric Power
- Capacity: 500MW
- Operation start year: 2023
Shikoku Electric Power (500 MW) in Ehime prefecture started its construction in May 2019, and it will start operating in 2023. 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.
No Coal Japan demands
Japan can be a renewable energy powerhouse, but it must:
- Ensure no new coal is built in Japan
- Phase out all coal by 2030, in line with what is required of OECD countries to meet Paris Agreement climate targets