Emphasis on Coal Moves Japan in the Wrong Direction, Report Says

Written by Chisaki Watanabe. This article first appeared in Bloomberg News.

Japan’s support for coal power is pushing against global trends and ignores the nation’s advantages in clean-energy technology, according to a report released Wednesday.

The country is unique among Group of Seven members for its plans to add domestic coal-generation capacity and for providing assistance for similar projects in Southeast Asia, InfluenceMap, a London-based nonprofit, said in the report. That’s “counter to the global coal phase-out trend,” according to the group, which collects data on corporation’s lobbying and energy practices.

While Japan surrendered its lead in solar-panel technology in the mid-2000s, it still retains research and manufacturing strengths in lithium-ion storage, components and key materials in renewables markets, according to the report. Success in those fields “will likely depend on it pivoting away from its coal-based power generation plans with far more focus on solar and wind,” InfluenceMap said.

Japan increased its reliance on fossil fuels after the 2011 Fukushima earthquake, which forced shutdowns of nuclear facilities nationwide. Coal, which accounted for a quarter of Japan’s electricity supply before the disaster, is expected to increase to 38 percent by 2030, according to estimates by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The government’s forecast is 26 percent.

Business Models

About half of the top 100 Japanese companies have business models that suggest a preference for renewable electricity, both at home and abroad, compared with coal, the report said.

The group reviewed the top 100 firms by revenue among the Nikkei 225 members.

InfluenceMap also looked at current and future energy procurement plans of the companies and found 61 percent had a preference for renewable-generated electricity over coal.

Many Japanese firms are also trying to use more clean energy following the 2015 Paris climate accord. Earlier this year, Ricoh Co., a maker of copiers and printers, became the first Japanese company to join a global initiative called RE100 to get all their power from renewable sources. Home builder Sekisui House Ltd. followed in October.

InfluenceMap cited SoftBank Group Corp. as one of the largest companies in Japan with ambitions in the renewable-energy sector.

“It is likely that more such companies and sector trade associations whose business models favor renewables need to break ranks with the official position of the Keidanren and speak out for stronger policy support, in both domestic and overseas energy policy, to promote renewables over coal,” the group said. Keidanren is Japan’s biggest business lobby.

About BloombergNEF

BloombergNEF (BNEF) is a strategic research provider covering global commodity markets and the disruptive technologies driving the transition to a low-carbon economy. Our expert coverage assesses pathways for the power, transport, industry, buildings and agriculture sectors to adapt to the energy transition. We help commodity trading, corporate strategy, finance and policy professionals navigate change and generate opportunities.
Sign up for our free monthly newsletter →

Want to learn how we help our clients put it all together? Contact us