Tokyo Electric Power Co. and nine other utilities emitted a record amount of carbon dioxide in the business year that ended March 31 as the Fukushima No. 1 disaster caused a surge in crude and fuel oil consumption.
The regional power companies produced about 439 million tons of carbon dioxide for the year, up 17 percent from 374 million tons in the year that ended in March 2011, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data provided by the companies. Kansai Electric Power Co., the utility that relied most on nuclear power, discharged 65.7 million tons, a 40 percent increase in emissions of the greenhouse gas.
Japan was forced to find an alternative to nuclear power, which produces virtually no greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change, after last year’s earthquake and tsunami caused the worst radioactive contamination since Chernobyl in the 1980s. With all but two of the country’s 50 commercial nuclear reactors offline and no date set to restart them, Japan is using record amounts of liquefied natural gas and sharply higher levels of fuel oil and crude to generate power.
The increased use of fossil fuels, especially fuel oil and crude, is making it harder for Japan to meet its target of a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by the end of the decade. Japan has pledged to reduce its carbon dioxide output by an average 6 percent from 2008 through 2012 compared with 1990 levels under the Kyoto Protocol, which limits releases by industrialized countries.
The 10 regional utilities used about 30 million tons of carbon credits to offset their emissions last fiscal year, compared with 57 million tons a year earlier, according to calculations based on the companies’ data.
“Objectively speaking, there is no doubt that it is more difficult to achieve the 25 percent reduction goal than before,” Naomi Hirose, president of Tepco, said in June before he was officially approved as the new chief. Japan’s emission target was based on the premise that it would build more reactors, Hirose said.
The government decided to start from scratch on energy policy after the magnitude-9 quake and tsunami caused meltdowns and radioactive leaks at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant. Its previous long-term plan called for increasing the ratio of electricity generated by nuclear power to 45 percent from 26 percent by 2030.
Japan is considering three options for nuclear energy dependence in 2030: zero percent, 15 percent and as much as 25 percent of total power supply. About 70 percent of the people at 11 hearings hosted by the government supported the zero-nuclear option, the Asahi newspaper reported Aug. 4.
Under the zero-nuclear scenario, the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 1990 levels may wind up being as little as 16 percent, a government panel said in a June 29 report. Japan can achieve a 23 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 without atomic power if it gets 35 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, compared with 10 percent now, and implements “strict regulations in wide areas,” and bans the sale of products that aren’t energy-efficient, the panel said.
While manufacturers of solar panels, wind turbines and other renewable power equipment would benefit from the expansion of clean energy, power companies, which have posted combined losses of ¥3.6 trillion since the Fukushima disaster started in March 2011, may not be able to afford enough carbon credits to help meet the carbon reduction target.
Tepco, in particular, can’t keep buying carbon credits because of overwhelming costs for compensating radiation victims, decommissioning and cleanup costs stemming from the nuclear disaster, Hirose said.