Japan's Renewable Energy Goals Lag World, Foreign Minister Says

Workers walk between rows of solar panels at a solar power station operated n Kasai, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. 

Japan’s plans to develop its renewable energy industry are lagging much of the world, as the nation has “prioritized keeping the status quo for fear of change,” Foreign Minister Taro Kono said.

Japan wants renewable energy to account for 22 percent to 24 percent of its overall energy mix by 2030, while the global average today is already 24 percent, Kono said Sunday at an International Renewable Energy Agency meeting in Abu Dhabi. “As Japanese foreign minister, I consider these circumstances lamentable.”

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Japan held its first-ever solar power auction last November, with the aim of reducing costs in one of the most expensive countries to generate electricity from the sun. But the results showed “underwhelming demand,” according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Government incentives have been decreasing since their introduction in 2012 following the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster. The support, known as feed-in-tariff, cost the Japanese public up to $24 billion last year, and costs are expected to increase, Kono said.

“We need bold investments and institutional reforms to enhance the transmission network and electric power exchange between regional utilities for the larger deployment of renewables,” he said.

There is some progress. Japan is leading research and development in a new type of “printable” photovoltatic solar cell that may lead to further cost reductions in the PV market, he said. A Japanese university has also developed an “all-solid-state battery” for the auto industry, he said. For the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japan plans to transport, store and use hydrogen produced by renewables and provide hydrogen to fuel passenger vehicles and buses for the event.

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