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Renewable energy

Japan biomass electricity generation booming

Japan biomass electricity generation approaches 4 GigaWatt

Renewables in Japan is not just solar…

Looking superficially at Japan’s renewable energy sector, its easy to overestimate geo-thermal energy, and to underestimate biomass.

Biomass electricity generation capacity is about 5 times higher than geo-thermal

Japan biomass - Biomass electricity generation capacity in Japan approaches 4 GigaWatt
Biomass electricity generation capacity in Japan approaches 4 GigaWatt

Currently the installed biomass electricity generation capacity is about 5 times higher than for geo-thermal energy production – a fact often overlooked in superficial discussions.

Biomass electricity production is included in Japan’s new feed-in-tariff program which started in July 2012, and is also very generous.

The figure above shows approvals for electricity generation projects from biomass under the new feed-in-tariff program, and demonstrates that after a slow start, approvals are now picking up. The sum of biomass generation facilities operating before the introduction of the new feed-in-tariffs plus approvals since July 2012 approaches 4 GigaWatt, which corresponds approximately to the generation capacity of 4 nuclear reactors.

Understand Japan’s renewable energy

Our report on Japan’s Renewable Energy Sector (pdf file, approx. 219 pages)

Understand Japan’s energy sector

Our report on Japan’s Energy Sector (pdf file, approx. 227 pages)

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Electricity Japan's energy sector Natural Gas, LNG Renewable energy

Japan energy – myths versus reality, mantra versus smart

A lecture a the Embassy of Sweden for the Stockholm School of Economics

European Institute for Japanese Studies EIJS

Gerhard Fasol "Japan energy - myths versus reality, mantra versus smart" Embassy of Sweden
Gerhard Fasol “Japan energy – myths versus reality, mantra versus smart” Embassy of Sweden

Outline of the lecture:

  • Energy and DNA
  • Energy and Physics, why you need to understand physics to understand energy
  • Ludwig Boltzmann’s tools and laws to work with energy
  • Myth versus reality, mantra versus smart – psychology of judgment and decision making
  • Parliamentary commission results: “regulatory capture” caused the Fukushima nuclear accident
  • History: Japan’s energy architecture frozen since 1952
  • Primary energy: 96% imported
  • Why Japan pays so much for LNG
  • Electricity architecture and liberalization
  • renewable energy
  • Future: where do we go from here?

Thank you to all those who attended the event “Japan’s energy – myths vs reality” at the Embassy of Sweden – an event organized by the European Institute for Japanese Studies of the Stockholm School of Economics.

We had about 120 registrations for 100 seats in the Alfred Nobel Auditorium of the Embassy of Sweden – participants included an official from Japan’s Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office, Officials from several Embassies including the Swedish, US, Norwegian, Swiss, Hungarian and more Embassy, executives from Japanese and European telecom and energy companies, including also several independent power producers (IPPs), legal professionals, and groups of students and MBA students from Tokyo University, Hitotsubashi University and others.

We had very vivid discussion, and continued the discussions over nijikai.

Detailed data, statistics and analysis of Japan’s energy markets:

All the data of the talk are from our reports on Japan’s energy sector:

Japan’s energy market report:

Renewable energy Japan – research report

Copyright 2013 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

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Renewable energy

94% of renewable energy projects approved under Japan’s feed-in-tariff programs are for solar energy generation

Japan’s feed in tariff for renewable energy

Almost all projects are for solar energy

Feed-in-tariffs for renewable energy where introduced in two stages in Japan. Large scale introduction of feed-in-tariffs (FIT) started with the Law entitled “Special measures concerning renewable energy electric power procurement by operators of electrical utilities law” which came into force on July 1, 2012. However, subsidies and feed-in-tariffs were already in place earlier for residential solar (mostly on roof-tops of private homes). Projects approved under the FIT program of July 1, 2012 amount to an increase of 41% in nominal renewable electrical generation capacity. Feed-in-tariffs however are not the whole story, because there are also programs for financial support, special finance arrangements, and tax benefits, and other support programs.

Renewable energy projects approved under Japan's feed-in-tariff program increased renewable energy generation capacity by 41.4% sofar
Renewable energy projects approved under Japan’s feed-in-tariff program increased renewable energy generation capacity by 41.4% sofar. source: https://www.eurotechnology.com/store/j_renewable/

Under the law feed-in-tariffs are periodically reviewed and adjusted. In fact, feed-in-tariffs for solar energy have already been reduced by about 10% this year and are likely to be decreased further next year. For some types of feed-in-tariffs however, increases are under discussions – thus the FIT-tariffs for off-shore wind maybe increased in the future.

Since feed-in-tariffs for solar are set for a period of 20 years, and are decreased periodically, there is great incentive to start solar installations as early as possible, in fact some Mega-Solar plants were switched on on July 1, 2012 to use every possible day. Currently there is a rush of solar operators starting up and expanding in Japan – exactly the effect the Government had intended by setting high feed-in-tariffs.

Project approvals under Japan's feed-in-tariff program for renewable energy are 93.8% for solar plants
Project approvals under Japan’s feed-in-tariff program for renewable energy are 93.8% for solar plants. Source: https://www.eurotechnology.com/store/j_renewable/

The renewable energy mix approved under the FIT program is very different to Japan’s traditional renewable energy mix, which was predominantly large scale water power plants

Prior to the introduction of feed-in-tariffs, renewable energy in Japan was predominantly large scale (greater than 1 MegaWatt) water power
Prior to the introduction of feed-in-tariffs, renewable energy in Japan was predominantly large scale (greater than 1 MegaWatt) water power. source: https://www.eurotechnology.com/store/j_renewable/

Renewable energy Japan report

detailed statistical data for installed renewable capacity and electricity generation and analysis

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Japan's electronics industry Japan's energy sector telecommunications

Japan trends for 2013 (New Year post)

Japan replaced nuclear electricity generation by LNG, by imported gas

Japan trends for 2013: Nuclear reactor restarts are on their way

Japan trends for 2013 Japan’s energy sector: Japan has essentially replaced the 30% of its electricity energy supply which was from nuclear power plants, by electricity produced in aging thermal power plants from urgently arranged LNG purchases at very high prices. Prime Minister Abe said that he wants to restart all nuclear power stations, which receive safety clearance by the new Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), and asks for these safety examinations to be completed within 3 years – however the NRA said, that 3 years is far to short to complete the safety assessment.

Given that any discussion about Japan’s energy mix, and “new” renewable energy (except for water power), liberalization and development of free energy markets were suppressed for many years in Japan, Japan now urgently needs to start innovating many components of the energy landscape including insulation and smart grids, and a new energy mix. PM Abe thinks that it will take about 10 years to settle on a new energy mix for Japan.

Japan trends for 2013: Japan is now waking up to innovation and changes of it’s energy and electricity sector

Japan’s electronics manufacturing sector is about as large as the economy of the Netherlands, but collectively showed no growth and lost money over the last 15 years, and therefore will either fade away, or very urgently needs new business models (see interview on BBC). PM Abe’s push for a lower YEN might soothe the symptoms a bit, but does not solve the fundamental problems. Hitachi’s “smart transformation” are steps in the right direction, but its really too early to tell – also “smart transformation” does not solve Japan’s traditionally low emphasis on software and other non-hard-ware-producing crafts.

Telecoms: Masayoshi Son, master of the midas touch and founder and master mind of SoftBank, acquired what was left of Vodafone-Japan and turned it around successfully within weeks, said reportedly: “I am a man – and want to be Number 1”. Now he aims to apply his midas touch to SPRINT. Expect more acquisitions by Son on the way to Number 1 in global telecoms.

Copyright 2013 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
Electricity Japan's energy sector Natural Gas, LNG Renewable energy

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

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.

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Electricity Japan's energy sector

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

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.

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