Japan’s Tepco plans 7GW renewables roll-out, in pivot away from nuclear

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Japan’s biggest utility reveals plans to develop up to 7GW of new renewable energy capacity, in effort to “gain the competitive advantage.”

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Japan’s biggest utility, Tokyo Electric Power Company, has revealed plans to develop up to 7GW of new renewable energy capacity, marking a major departure from nuclear as the company strives to re-gain “the competitive advantage” in energy generation.

Tepco President Tomoaki Kobayakawa told the Nikkei Asian Review on Monday that the company planned to pour tens of billions of dollars into between 6 and 7GW of renewable energy projects both in Japan and abroad, including offshore wind and hydro power.

Reports suggest the focus in Japan will largely be on offshore wind, including the use of floating turbine technology that is considered to be well suited to the island nation’s relatively deep coastal waters.

And in hydro, Tepco plans to develop sites in south-east Asia, alongside its overseas and domestic wind power businesses. The company reportedly hopes to have each of the three renewables components generating at least 2GW of power.

The sharp turn into renewables comes more than seven years after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that led to meltdowns at Tepco’s ruined Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, and the consequent shutdown of all of Japan’s remaining 48 nuclear reactors.

That shut-down continues still – and even reactors that have received approval to restart are struggling to get the social licence to do so, in light of the fallout from the Fukushima disaster.

Renewables, meanwhile, account for just 15 per cent of Tepco’s power output, which is less than its competitors, despite the fact that Tepco is Japan’s largest overall power producer.

“We must gain competitive advantage in renewable energy,” Kobayakawa told the Nikkei.

“This is not a case where one company does everything… I would like to decide on partners in one year from a wide breadth at home and abroad,” he said.

The new tack for Tepco suggests a major change in direction and thinking in the Japanese electricity market, where a skew towards nuclear and “baseload” generation has roughly mirrored Australia’s attachment to coal.

As a 2016 Greenpeace Japan report noted, the nation’s nuclear utilities have had a history of  “(lobbying) hard for the right to block access to the grid for renewable power plants” whenever they deemed it necessary to preserve grid stability.

They argued, said Greenpeace Japan, the all-too familiar line that the fluctuating output of renewables was incompatible with the output of nuclear reactors the government was trying to restart.

But this thinking appears to be shifting, and not just among power companies. A separate report last week in the Nikkei Asian Review noted that renewable energy momentum was also building in Japan’s corporate and industrial sectors, boosted by the liberalisation of the nation’s energy market in 2016.

“More Japanese companies are promising to source all of their electricity from renewable energy in 10 to 30 years,” the news site said. “A trend that could in turn spur investment to bolster grid capacity, to accommodate demand.”

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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41 Comments
  1. phillyc 5 months ago

    I like the sentiment to go 100% renewable.

    ““More Japanese companies are promising to source all of their electricity from renewable energy in 10 to 30 years,” the news site said.”

    30 years is too long, quite like the 10 year timeframe though!

    • Petar Posavec 5 months ago

      In reality, the globe can easily transition to 100% renewable energy/heat/etc. in about 10 years (probably less if we used automation as much as possible).

      Plus, for extra efficiency. We should harvest existing power plants etc for raw amterimat and convert them into superior synthetic materials for use in construction of solar, wimd, geothermal, tidal and wave power

      • Shilo 4 months ago

        10 years, the whole world, to RE, 100%. Can easily do it!!!!!????? Is that like could? or Should? or useing IF in any part???.
        I am not trying to be nasty or smart.
        But the world will either be 100% RE in 10 years or it will not be.
        I will go with it will not be.
        No matter what happens.
        However it would be very nice if it actually did.

        • Petar Posavec 4 months ago

          All I’m saying is that nothing technical is preventing the world from going 100% renewable in a decade or less.
          The problem is not technological or resource-wise… its an issue with outdated socio-economic system we use and ridiculously long ‘targets’ which companies have set out for themselves (until 2050 for example).
          The only reason for waiting until 2050 for renewables to gain significant traction is because companies and people in power don’t want to expend too much ‘money’ on it immediately, but instead want to draw it out as slowly as they can without cutting into their profit margins.

          • Shilo 4 months ago

            I agree, and your making a statement about something that is not going to happen, no matter what. As sad as that is, thats the reality.
            Its actually going to take a long time to actually get to 100% worldwide.
            However every single day we are getting closer, which in its self it bloody fantastic.
            Nothing is ever perfect and timing of things almost always never goes to plan.
            In this regard I think we have to still push and keep pushing, but feel happy with, “Better late, than never” But not say it until we get to 100%!!!!!!.

          • Petar Posavec 4 months ago

            In this instance, we are racing against time because climate vhange wont wait.

            Also. Transition to 100% renewables probably won’t be enough.
            One of the largest contributors to climate change is animal agriculture due to its methane emissions.
            Going vegan can solve that immediate issue, but our outdated farming practices are also in dire need of change (which we had the capacity to do for over 40 years now).

            Plus the ridiculous practice of contucont extraction of raw materials from earth instead of harvesting the landfills for the matter in question.

            As for it not happening in the next 10 years, given the rate kf faster thsn exponential development ovcurring even as we speak, a lot can chamge in a decade.

            Though for reference sake, MIT did a study in 2012 which states that a gloval economic collapse will occur by 2030 (essentially, I tjink this is referring ti capitalism collapsing globally due to heavy automation – and not a moment too soon
            … We need to transition into Resource based economy if we want to ensure continued survival/thriving of humanity on earth and its biosphere in a sustainable capacity (indefinite growth cannot achieve this)

  2. Shilo 5 months ago

    Its very amazing it has taken Japan this long, they are the best at making solar pannels and batterys, and once they start on wind turbines i am sure that as well

  3. The_Lorax 5 months ago

    Japan is actually building a huge amount new coal-fired power stations.
    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/05/bucking-global-trends-japan-again-embraces-coal-power

    • Joe 5 months ago

      Just read that link. Crikey, the Fukushima disaster should have been the moment for Japan to go headlong into RE. Instead its retreating to FF and by his own admission the Japan Environment Minister admits it will hard for Japan to meet it emissions reductions commitments. And I love the piece about the so called Cleeeen Coalers. No description will change the fact that Cleeeen Coalers are still dirty GHG emitters and the so called CCS is commercially unviable. But hey we’ll give that a plug to boost our spin about building new Coalers. I thought the Japanese were a bit smarter than this.

    • Rod 5 months ago

      Tokyo is about to get slammed by another typhoon.

      Maybe they can put two and two together and work out more coal burners will just make this a regular occurrence.

      “Severe Tropical Storm Jongdari is set to strike Japan this weekend with flooding rain and damaging winds.

      While currently well to the south of mainland Japan, Jongdari is expected to
      track northeastward in the coming days before turning westward this
      weekend and slamming the east coast of Honshu.

      Rough seas and high surf will batter the entire east coast of Japan from Friday through the weekend, creating hazardous conditions for shipping interests.Jongdari is expected to strengthen as it tracks toward Japan and achieves typhoon status prior to reaching the country.”

      • Ralph Buttigieg 5 months ago

        Are you seriously suggesting if Japan didn’t burn coal they wouldn’t have any typhoons?

        • Rod 5 months ago

          Are you seriously suggesting you don’t understand the correlation between CO2, warmer oceans and more intense storm systems?

        • heinbloed 5 months ago

          ” Are you seriuosly …?”

          Me too.

      • Joe 5 months ago

        And Japan has just experienced record high summer temps and we saw the pictures of the recent flooding event. But hey, The Deniers are still out there and we’ve had a few of their scribbles in the pages of Renew Economy. The Science warned that more will more extremes in temps, storms and rainfall. Japan is getting a taste of all three in just one summer season.

    • heinbloed 5 months ago

      ” Japan is actually building a huge amount new coal-fired power stations.”

      Check the clowns magazine again and send them a red nose.

      https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Japan-says-no-to-high-emission-coal-power-plants

    • David Osmond 5 months ago

      Japan is also cancelling a huge number (3.6 GW) of those proposed coal power plants:

      https://www.renewable-ei.org/en/activities/column/20180723.html

      • The_Lorax 5 months ago

        Adding 17GW in new coal, cancelling 3.6GW. Not helpful in getting the planet to zero emissions by mid-century.

        • David Osmond 5 months ago

          Agreed, but there’s no guarantee that all of that 17 GW will actually get built. And of that which does get built, does it end up increasing coal generation in Japan, or simply displace older or less efficient coal generation?

  4. phillyc 5 months ago

    https://endcoal.org/global-coal-plant-tracker/
    China has slowed from 80GW installed per year in 2006 and 2007 down to 37GW in 2017 and slowed even further to 12GW (Jan-July 2018). There has been a below trend 1.7GW decommissioned in Jan-July 2018.

    • Calamity_Jean 5 months ago

      Well, that’s ungood. Switzerland is far enough south that it should put in a lot of solar on the east, west and south sides of its mountains. Every building with a southern exposure should have rooftop solar.

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