Japan’s electricity industry suffers huge losses from nuclear to fossil switch

Japan's electricity industry suffers huge losses from nuclear to fossil switch

What is the financial impact of Japan’s switch from nuclear to fossil on Japan’s electricity industry?

Japan’s electricity operators switched from profits to huge losses

What is the financial impact of Japan’s switch from nuclear to fossil on Japan’s electricity industry?
Answer: Japan’s electricity operators switched from about US$ 10 billion/year combined net profits to US$ 20 billion/year losses – far more dramatic than the impact of the Lehman shock. – Selected graphics below in this blog, and detailed analysis in our report on Japan’s electricity and energy industry.

annual net income of Japan's electricity operators
annual net income of Japan’s electricity operators

Electricity operator losses may drive innovation

Losses are caused by high costs of fossil fuels and additional generation capacity brought online, and drive innovation, by forcing operators to look for new solutions to time-shift demand such as smart grids, and smart meters.

net margins of Japan's electricity operators
net margins of Japan’s electricity operators

Electricity sales revenues were affected much more by the Lehman shock than by switching from nuclear to fossil
The figure below shows combined sales revenues of Japan’s 10 regional electricity operators. Sales were strongly affected by the industrial downturn after the Lehman shock in September 2009, and have recovered since. There is no strong effect of the Fukushima disaster and nuclear -> fossil switch on electricity sales:

US$ 200 Billion/year = combined annual income of Japan's electricity operators
US$ 200 Billion/year = combined annual income of Japan’s electricity operators

Because Japan’s electricity operators have monopoly status in their regions, their financials are mainly affected by the economic status of their regions. All were affected dramatically on the sales side by the Lehman shock. This figure also shows that Japan’s electricity industry has been very static for many years. Japan’s Governments recent energy strategy provides for liberalization – executing this strategy will be the challenge.

More in our report on Japan’s electricity sector.

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Japan’s energy foxtrot… Two steps forward one step back….

Japan's energy sector

“Two steps forward one step back…”

describes a frog struggling to climb out of a well, slipping back one step on the ladder for each two steps upwards out of the well…

Before the Fukushima disaster, Japan’s energy policy, strategy and execution were essentially decided behind closed doors by a small group of (about 100) Japanese people, and while European countries, Canada, USA experimented with electricity liberalization, Japan’s electricity industry structure went unchanged for a very very long time with a rigid top-down structure. However with the Fukushima disaster, Japan’s energy landscape has been brought onto the world stage, catching global attention for the first time.

Two steps forward (actually much more than two steps): Last Friday, September 14, 2012, Japan’s Cabinet released Japan’s new “Innovative Energy and Environmental Strategy”. We have analyzed the full Japanese text of this strategy paper, and you can find a summary on pages 5-23 in our “Japan Electrical Energy Landscape” report.

Most English language press reports focus only on the first few pages which describe a plan to phase out nuclear energy in Japan over the next 30-40 years. However this Government paper contains many other policy measures to reform Japan’s electricity industry and to completely change the principles of Japan’s energy landscape – steps which are long overdue, and where Japan has fallen behind most other advanced countries, because pre-Fukushima, Japan’s electricity industry was functioning “too well” – although at very elevated prices (for detailed analysis, read our report).

The strategy plan announced on September 14, 2012 has not yet created any irreversible facts – although two irreversible facts could soon be implemented: the Government announced a few days ago, that 3 nuclear power reactors should be decommissioned under the new 40-year-limit-rule, Tsuruga’s No 1 reactor (started March 1970), and Mihama’s No. 1 (started Nov 1970) and No. 2 reactors (started July 1972).

One step back: Sept. 19, the Cabinet released a “Kakugikettei” (Cabinet Decision) which is 4 and 1/2 lines long, which says:

We will carry out our energy and environmental policy based on the “Innovative Energy and Environmental Strategy” as decided by the Energy and Environment Council on Sept 14, however we will hold responsible discussions with concerned self-governing regional bodies of Japan and with concerned international organizations, and we will continuously and flexibly verify and adjust our policy. (Kakugikettei, Cabinet decision of Sept 19, 2012, our unofficial translation from bureaucratic official complex Japanese into simplified English, attempting to keep the same meaning).

Note, that this “step back” is not uniquely Japanese…. Sweden decided in the 1980s to go zero-nuclear with a Parliament approved schedule, and Sweden’s parliament reversed the earlier zero-nuclear decision, and went back to continue nuclear power in 2010 and renewing or building new nuclear power stations.

Subscribe to our report on Japan’s energy sector and receive regular updates.

Copyright·©2013 ·Eurotechnology Japan KK·All Rights Reserved·

Japan’s new energy strategy: much more than nuclear exit

Japan's energy sector

Japan’s Cabinet released Japan’s new “Innovative Energy and Environmental Strategy”

Japan’s new energy strategy

Last Friday, September 14, 2012, Japan’s Cabinet released Japan’s new “Innovative Energy and Environmental Strategy”, which the Cabinet is required to produce by law, and which actually contains much more than the plan to work towards a future nuclear power free society.

We have analyzed the full official “Innovative Energy and Environmental Strategy” in the original Japanese version, and we have prepared a 19 page English language summary which you can find on pages 5-23 of our “Japan Electrical Energy Landscape” report

Most English language press reports have focused on the three principles to work towards a nuclear free society

  1. strictly limit the operation of nuclear power plants to 40 years age
  2. restart those nuclear power plants, where the safety has been assured by the Nuclear Safety Commission
  3. no new construction or expansion of nuclear power stations

These principles – if maintained – may lead to the last nuclear power station in Japan to be switched off around 2052, ie about 40 years from now.

However, Japan’s new energy strategy framework paper contains much more

  • five policy packages concerning: the nuclear fuel cycle, human resources and technology development, cooperation with the global community, regional measures, the nuclear industry system and system for compensation of damages
  • measures for reducing electricity and energy consumption with targets until 2030 for two different economic growth scenarios
  • measures for promoting investment in renewable energy, with renewable energy generation targets until 2030
  • targets for electricity cogeneration until 2030
  • electricity power system reform, including unbundling of generation, transport and retail with the promotion of vibrant electricity markets
  • opening, strengthening and neutral electricity grid network, fair and accessible to all electricity producers
  • and most of all, a planned transition from passive electricity bill paying consumers to aware and active market participants who as much as possible generate their own electricity, and who instead of paying electricity bills, earn money from electricity they generate

In particular, the strategy plan states explicitly:

“…. it is indispensable, that electricity grid networks can be used by anyone, and to have competitive electricity markets”.

When trying to predict the far future, whether Japan will actually go completely non-nuclear or not, keep in mind that Sweden has decided to go non-nuclear in the 1980s, and has reversed this decision around 2010.

Currently only two of Japan’s remaining 50 nuclear reactors are in operation. It will be interesting to see if and when the safety of additional reactors are approved, and how rapidly the announcement dramatic deregulation and structural reform of Japan’s electricity system will be implemented, and how much of the announced policy steps might be reversed – or accelerated – by future Governments.

The strategy plan announced on September 14, 2012 has not yet created any irreversible facts.
Subscribe to our report series on Japan’s electricity industry landscape and our report on renewable energy in Japan.

Copyright·©2013 ·Eurotechnology Japan KK·All Rights Reserved·

Briefing the Minister for Energy and Natural Resources of Canada, Mr Joe Oliver

Was asked today to be one of a group of about 5 Japanese experts to brief the Minister for Energy and Natural Resources of Canada, Mr Joe Oliver. We were asked to keep the conversation off-the-record, so I can’t write about the meeting.

Minister Oliver visited Japan leading a delegation of about 100 Canadian Energy sector leaders, CEOs, Government Officials, and the confidential briefing and discussion about Japan’s energy sector among a small group of about 5 Japanese experts, the Ambassador and Minister Oliver, was followed by a large lunch with about 100 Japanese and Canadian energy leaders and CEOs.

Presentation was based on our report on Japan’s energy sector.

Japan’s PM Noda hints at new energy policy: Phasing out nuclear power by the 2030s

Japan's energy sector

Develop as soon as possible a society which does not rely on nuclear power

Eliminate nuclear power according to three principles

By law Japan’s government must prepare a national energy strategy plan. The currently valid plan provides for an increase of nuclear power from 30% to 50% and is vehemently opposed by public opinion following the Fukushima nuclear disaster and much loss of public trust in nuclear power in Japan – while at the same time many Japanese traditional industry leaders promote nuclear power as a necessity.

Decision on the new energy plan has been postponed, but is likely to be announced later this week. However, Japan’s public Radio and TV NHK reports, that Prime-Minister Noda yesterday at a Press Conference hinted at the content of the new energy policy plan. Some sources say that the new energy plan has already been approved by the cabinet.

NHK reports the following about Japan’s new energy policy

  • Develop as soon as possible (translated word by word from Japanese: “one day earlier than possible”) a society which does not rely on nuclear power
  • use all political means to enable zero nuclear power in the “2030s” (which might mean 2040 depending on the interpretation)
  • promote renewable energy in order to enable zero nuclear power
  • eliminate nuclear power according to three principles
    • no nuclear power station older then 40 years
    • restart only those nuclear power stations, for which safety has been approved by the Nuclear Safety Commission
    • no new power stations
  • operate nuclear power stations, for which the safety has been assured, as an important power source

We expect Japan’s new energy policy plan, which is required by law, to be announced later this week.

Regarding nuclear phase-out keep in mind that:

The Swedish Parliament in 1980 decided that no new nuclear power stations shall be built and that Sweden should complete shut-down of all nuclear power stations by 2010.
However, Sweden reversed nuclear phase-out, and on June 17, 2010, Swedish Parliament decided to replace the existing reactors with new nuclear reactors starting from January 1, 2011.

Therefore, if in the future Japan reverses the nuclear phase-out, Japan would not be the first country to do so.

Japan’s current nuclear near-shut down:

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster Japan effectively stopped nuclear power generation. There are no black-outs - how could Japan manage?
After the Fukushima nuclear disaster Japan effectively stopped nuclear power generation. There are no black-outs – how could Japan manage?

Detailed statistics, analysis and frequent updates – in our report on Japan’s energy sector.

Copyright·©2013 ·Eurotechnology Japan KK·All Rights Reserved·

Japan energy dilemma

Japan's energy sector

Japanese law requires the government to have an energy strategy plan in place

Keep nuclear power off – or restart nuclear?

Japan’s current energy strategy plan provides for nuclear power to provide 30% of the electricity, rising to 50% in a few years by building additional nuclear power stations.

However, contrary to the current strategy plan the figure below shows, that Japan essentially switched off all nuclear power over the last year, with 2 exceptions.

A new energy strategy plan is delayed, but could be announced in the next few days. The Cabinet is in a dilemma to decide between the interests of the pro-nuclear business association Keidanren and the pro-nuclear electrical industry and considerable anti-nuclear movements in the general (voting) population.

One major problem is that Japan’s energy architecture and electricity industry is regulated by laws and regulations established in 1952. Essentially, Japan’s energy and electricity architecture has been frozen in 1952, and has not been changed until the Fukushima nuclear accident now forces change. The contribution of “new” renewable energy to Japan’s energy mix is so minute (except for water power), that it would be too small to be seen on the figures below. Our Japan-Energy report explains the major issues facing Japan’s energy architecture and its structure.

Japan’s energy peak is in summer (because energy consumption in Japan for air conditioning in summer is higher than for heating in winter), there were no black-outs, or brown-outs – how did Japan manage successfully despite the sudden unplanned exit from nuclear power? Read below…

How did Japan cope with the sudden exit from nuclear power?

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster Japan effectively stopped nuclear power generation. There are no black-outs - how could Japan manage?
After the Fukushima nuclear disaster Japan effectively stopped nuclear power generation. There are no black-outs – how could Japan manage?
Japan's survived by reducing summer peaks, and by increasing traditional caloric power production
Japan’s survived by reducing summer peaks, and by increasing traditional caloric power production

How did Japan cope with the sudden shut-down of nuclear power?

Japan’s peak power consumption is in summer, all nuclear power (with 2 exceptions) was switched off since this spring, and there were no black-outs, no brown-outs, and no major problems. How did Japan achieve this?

As the lower figure shows, traditional caloric energy production was increased by installing new power plants, and by bringing back old caloric power plants which had already been switched off, and by reducing the summer peak compared to recent years through energy savings. It has been estimated that the additional costs for imported fuel are on the order of US$ 40 billion.

Expect Japan’s new national energy strategy plan to be announced in the next few days.

Japan’s energy architecture is maybe a victim of its pre-Fukushima success: because Japan’s electricity supply was working so well, nobody felt motivated enough to change the existing monopolies, grid, energy mix, or to develop renewable energies. More in our Japan-energy report.

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