Japan Minister Says She Won’t Support 2 Coal Power Projects

(Bloomberg) — Japan’s environment minister, Tamayo
Marukawa, said she won’t support two new coal-fired stations
planned by a unit of Kansai Electric Power Co. amid increasing
scrutiny over the use of the most-polluting fossil fuel ahead of
Paris climate talks later this month.

The environment ministry has been urging the country’s
power industry, which in July set a voluntary goal to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions 35 percent from 2013 levels by 2030, to
come up with specific measures and rules to achieve the target.

“The voluntary framework needs more work,” Marukawa told
reporters Friday. “I can’t endorse the projects at this point.”

The comment is the first time Marukawa has expressed
disapproval for new coal-power plants after taking on the role
of environment minister in October. Her predecessor, Yoshio
Mochizuki, has said he won’t support three other new coal plants
as they threaten Japan’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas
emissions.  

One of the two coal projects Marukawa said she won’t
support is a 1,300-megawatt station in Akita prefecture being
planned by Kanden Energy Solution Co. and Marubeni Corp. Kanden
Energy also plans a 1,000-megawatt plant in Chiba with
TonenGeneral Sekiyu K.K.

Projects Considered

“We are at the stage to consider the project, while closely
monitoring the government’s policy,” Tokyo-based Marubeni said
by e-mail. “We’d like to refrain from commenting on details as
we have yet to reach the stage to assess the feasibility.”

While considering the project, Kansai Electric plans to
adopt the latest technologies to reduce environmental impact and
seek the understanding and cooperation from the national and
central governments and local residents, spokesman Yoshihiro
Yamamoto said by phone.

Marukawa’s comments come as Japan faces pressure from
environmentalists over its backing of the fossil fuel. In a June
report, the Natural Resources Defense Council, a U.S.
environmental group, and partners, said Japan provided more than
$20 billion in public coal finance, more than any country,
between 2007 and 2014.

Activists plan a demonstration on Friday in Washington to
protest Japan’s public financing of coal projects overseas,
according to Friends of the Earth, an American environmental
group.

The protest will be held before a meeting of the
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Export
Credit Group in Paris next week where countries will negotiate
restrictions on public financing for coal projects, according to
the group.

Coal Financing

Asked about recent media reports that the U.S. and Japan
have agreed to tighten policy on export support for coal-fired
power projects, Marukawa said she is aware of media reports but
doesn’t have any details.

Regardless of the environment minister’s stance on the coal
projects, it is the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry that
is ultimately responsible for approving individual coal power
projects.

A report earlier this year from the trade ministry
assessing Japan’s power supply and demand anticipates fossil
fuels will supply 56 percent of electricity by 2030. Fossil
fuels accounted for 88 percent of Japan’s power supply in fiscal
2014.

“If there is a place for coal in the mix, we believe the
Chiba project is attractive because it will incorporate the
latest technology with lower emissions, it is close to demand
centers reducing transmission losses,” TonenGeneral said in an
e-mail.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Chisaki Watanabe in Tokyo at cwatanabe5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net
Iain Wilson, Abhay Singh

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