Environmental activists are fuming over Japan’s plans to build as many as 45 new coal-fired power stations in the coming years.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is still firmly behind plans to build coal plants, despite repeated pressures from environmentalists to stop construction of the major new coal plants. Abe wants more new coal plants to make sure the island nation isn’t too reliant on any one source of electricity.
“Japan needs to import 95 per cent of all its energy sources,” Tom O’Sullivan, an energy analyst with Mathyos Global Advisory in Tokyo, told Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “So it’s trying to diversify its fuel sources and it doesn’t want to be too reliant on any one market.”
Most of the coal Japan plans to burn in these plants will be imported from the U.S. or Australia. The country is also building additional natural gas power plants.
Japan is turning to coal power due to attempts to transition the country away from nuclear power. The country previously pledged to abandon nuclear power by the 2030s, with major figures like the former prime minister coming out against nuclear.
Officials promised to replace nuclear power with wind or solar, but this caused the price of electricity to rise by 20 percent. Japan’s government currently aims to restart at least 32 of the 54 reactors it shut down following the Fukushima disaster, and wants nuclear power to account for 20 percent of the nation’s total electricity generated by 2030.
Nuclear power provided 29 percent of Japan’s total electricity before 2011, but will decline to 13.6 percent by 2023 and 1.2 percent by 2040, according to reports. Japan got 24 percent of its electricity from coal in 2010 and the country plans to get more than a third of its power from coal by 2040.
Japan’s transition to green energy hasn’t gone well, and the country likely won’t meet its goals. Japan remains a top importer of oil, coal and natural gas, and the government estimated that importing fuel costs the country more than $40 billion annually.
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