Japan made a step towards the closure of old coal-fired power plants

Le Japon fait un pas vers la fermeture de vieilles centrales à charbon

TOKYO | The japanese government is committed Friday to study concrete measures to reduce its energy dependence on coal by 2030, while the media has announced that it plans to stop 100 old coal-fired power plants by this date.

The minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshi Kajiyama said Friday it has asked its departments to develop proposals to “stop the coal-fired power plants were inefficient and making renewable energy a source of electricity majeure”.

Among the options being considered is a tightening of regulations to ensure that old coal-fired power plants in the country are arrested by 2030, he added.

The minister, however, refused to give a target. The daily Yomiuri Shimbun, announced on Thursday that the government planned, by 2030, close to 100 of 114 coal-fired power plants in the country built before the mid-1990s, the most polluting.

In total, 140 coal-fired power plants are currently in operation in the archipelago, generating nearly one-third of the country’s electricity, and the construction of a dozen new project.

The 26 coal-fired power plants modern in the country, producing almost half of the country’s electricity is obtained from this ore, which Japan imports mainly from Australia.

Although less polluting than the old ones, these power plants emit “more than two times more” CO2 than power plants, gas combined cycle, according to Yukari Takamura, a specialist in environmental issues at the university of Tokyo, questioned by AFP.

Critical recurrent

Coal is the second largest source of electricity production in Japan, after the liquefied natural gas (LNG), which generates 38 % of its electricity.

Renewables account for about 17% of the energy mix for japan currently, and the nuclear 9 %.

The country’s dependence on fossil energy had soared after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, which had for consequence to put temporarily to stop all its nuclear power industry to review the safety standards.

The third economic power of the world is regularly accused of not doing enough to reduce its CO2 emissions in the framework of the fight against the warming of the planet.

Japan has committed by 2015 to reduce by 26 % in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 2013.

The country hopes to bring to 22-24 % the share of green energies in its energy mix in 2030. It also plans to significantly up the share of nuclear power by then, at 20-22 %, compared to 25 % before the Fukushima disaster.

The objectives to 2030 of the government in terms of green energy, “would be more ambitious”, according to dr. Takamura, who estimates that a 30 per cent share of renewable energy in ten years would be achievable.

Exports in South-East Asia

Tokyo is also regularly criticized abroad to support the financing of projects of coal-fired power plants in South-East Asia.

Mr. Kajiyama said on Friday that the discussions with respect to possible more restrictive rules on the aid of the controversial “were in their final phase”.

“This policy continues” for the time being, particularly through the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), an institution close to the State promoting japanese exports, ” said Ms. Takamura.

The three “megabanks” private, japanese, Mizuho, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), are also among the largest funders of coal-fired power plants in the world.

Responding to the pressure organisations for the defence of the environment, these banks have, however, recently renounced, in principle, to fund projects in this area. But “multiple vulnerabilities” remain in their commitments, says Hanna Hakko, a specialist in energy issues at Greenpeace Japan.

“There are a lot of possible exceptions, depending on the situation of each country, the technologies used (…). And the megabanks are not committed to stop funding of foreign groups dependent on the coal or planning to build power plants of this type”, is still Ms. Hakko, questioned by the AFP.

Mizuho, MUFG and SMBC have planned to review again the next year their funding policies in the field of energy.

“Things are changing slowly in Japan,” says Ms. Takamura.

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