Japan’s Marubeni deals “body blow” to coal, in pivot to renewables

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Japanese energy giant reveals plans to halve its ownership of coal power by 2030, and withdraw completely from building new coal fired generators.

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Japanese energy giant Marubeni Corp has revealed plans to halve its ownership of coal-fired power plants by 2030, and withdraw completely from the coal plant building business, in what industry watchers are describing as the latest and strongest confirmation of a global transition to renewables.

The sudden strategic pivot by Marubeni – renowned as one of the world’s biggest builders of new coal-fired power generation – was reported in the Nikkei on Monday, in a an exclusive story (behind the paywall) outlining the company’s plans to accelerate its shift to renewables.

Tim Buckley, from the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said Marubeni’s wholesale shift to renewables dealt a “body-blow to the global coal industry” while offering a profoundly important endorsement of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Re-tweeting the Nikkei story, Buckley described it as “one of the biggest breaking stories of 2018 in terms of energy transition.”

The image on the Tweet, as he points out, is a concept drawing of Marubeni’s joint venture with Jinko Solar and AWEC in the United Arab Emirates – “one of the lowest priced solar developments to date in the world,” at at a tariff of <US$30/MWh.

For Australia, as veteran business journalist Michael West writes on his blog, the news must surely make the proposal to use taxpayers’ money to build coal-fired power plants in Australia look “even more fanciful.”

Particularly considering the Turnbull/Morrison-led Coalition likes to offer Japan as a shining example of countries building new, super-critical HELE coal plants; it is where the Minerals Council of Australia sent northern Queensland MP George Christensen on a trip to look at new examples.

According to IEEFA’s July 2018 report, Marubeni Corp had more than 12GW of new coal fired power plants under development globally, in Japan and across a range of emerging markets like Botswana, Egypt, Mongolia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar.

“IEEFA congratulates President Fumiya Kokubu for this truly amazing strategic shift,” Buckley said on Monday.

“It is inevitable that other global coal plant developers like POSCO of South Korea, Siemens of Germany and GE of America will be forced to evaluate their own position in light of Marubeni’s decision.”

Sophie Vorrath

Sophie is editor of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and deputy editor of its sister site, RenewEconomy.com.au. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.

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