Consider Effective Measures Not Just Targets in Decarbonization Strategy

Setting targets alone is inadequate for achieving decarbonization to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. The public and private sectors should work together to overcome mounting problems.

The government has compiled an action plan for the “green growth strategy,” aiming at achieving the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero in 2050. In the plan, 14 fields, such as offshore wind power generation and nuclear power, are designated to be prioritized, and expansion targets and necessary countermeasures for each field were described.

Based on the action plan, the government plans to continue discussions during the government’s Growth Strategy Council and other occasions to come up with concrete measures by next summer.

The government has placed decarbonization as a pillar of its growth strategy. It is important for the government to present a clear path to promote investments by corporations in this field.

The action plan assumes that annual demand for electricity will increase by a maximum of 50% in 2050 compared to the current demand, as the electrification of industries advances. Decarbonization of the electric power sector is the key premise for realizing zero emissions.

The action plan also set a target of raising the percentage of renewable energy in overall electricity generation from 17% in fiscal 2018 to 50-60% in 2050.

For this reason, the government has placed its hopes on offshore wind power. It reportedly aims to increase by 2040 the annual generating capacity of offshore wind power to a maximum of 45 million kilowatts, which is equivalent to the capacity of 45 nuclear reactors. It will be more than 2,000 times the current scale.

There are two types of offshore wind turbines: the fixed-bottom type constructed on the seabed and the floating type. In Japan, where there are not many shallow coastlines, it must depend on the floating type.

The technology for floating wind power farms has yet to be established in the world, and a government verification study conducted off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture found that they were unable to generate electricity as expected due to problems with the wind turbines and other matters, leading to the removal of the facility.

The hurdles to the expansion of the use of floating wind turbines are still high. Issues on this must be examined, and technological development must be steadily accelerated.

It is reasonable that the action plan places nuclear power as a priority field. The government plans to restart reactors in Japan and to work with other countries to develop small nuclear reactors that are believed to be highly safe.

Nuclear power plants have stable output and can supplement renewable energy, which is affected by weather and other factors. The greater the percentage of renewable energy becomes, the greater the importance of nuclear power becomes. It is essential to explain this logic meticulously to the public.

As for automobiles, the government has set a goal that all new passenger vehicles, including mini-vehicles, to be sold will be electrified, such as in the form of electric vehicles, by the mid-2030s.

The industry has raised opinions that the government should extend financial support in this regard, with one industry official saying, “It’s a very difficult challenge.” While hearing industry opinions, it is necessary for the government to take effective measures to support promising technologies and deal with issues in the development and spread of such vehicles.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 27, 2020.