Japan starts energy talks to balance supply risks with net zero goal

By Thomson Reuters May 15, 2024 | 5:04 AM

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s industry ministry kicked off talks on Wednesday to craft the next basic energy plan, a key long-term strategy for the resource-poor country aimed at balancing energy security and decarbonisation to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

It will be the first revision of the plan since Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made a major power policy shift in 2022, signalling the country would restart idled nuclear plants faster and extend the lifespan of existing ones to tackle the energy crisis triggered by the Ukraine war.

Japan, the world’s fifth-biggest carbon dioxide emitter, currently relies on fossil fuels for about 70% of its electricity.

The government revises its energy plan every three to four years.

“Demand for energy security is higher than ever, while the decarbonisation movement is also growing,” Japanese Industry Minister Ken Saito told a panel meeting of energy and industry experts, which began the discussions on the new plan.

“I have a strong sense of urgency that Japan is now at the most difficult post-war point in its energy policy,” he said.

The current plan, which was approved by the cabinet in October 2021, did not mention building new nuclear plants or replacing existing ones, but stated that Japan aimed to reduce its reliance on nuclear power as much as possible.

The new plan will outline the goals and policy direction for how Japan will accelerate the decarbonisation toward 2035-2040 to contribute to international efforts against global warming, while simultaneously ensuring stable energy supplies.

Discussions will also touch on how Japan will reduce coal-fired power generation and how to secure a long-term supply of liquefied natural gas, which the government considers an important fuel during the energy transition.

The panel, together with specialised working groups under the ministry, will hold a series of discussions, with the new energy plan expected to be finalised by around mid-2025.

(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Alison Williams)