The government vowed Friday to study concrete ways of phasing out older, dirtier coal-fired power stations by 2030 following reports it plans to mothball around 100 of the aging plants.
The world’s third-largest economy has come under fire for continuing to build the carbon-emitting plants at home, as well as financing projects to build them abroad, notably in Southeast Asia.
Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshi Kajiyama said he had ordered officials to make proposals to “phase out inefficient coal-fired power plants and make renewable energy a main power source.”
The options could include tightening regulation to ensure the aging plants are phased out by 2030, he added.
While imposing output curbs on old plants, the government will offer preferential treatment to power suppliers that suspend or scrap such plants early, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Kajiyama declined to set a numerical target, but local media have reported the government plans to phase out 100 out of the 114 plants built before the mid-1990s that emit more carbon dioxide than newer models.
Nearly a third of the nation’s electricity is provided by a total of 140 coal-fired power plants. Coal is the second-biggest power-generation method behind LNG, which provides 38 percent.
More than a dozen projects are underway to build coal-fired power plants.
The government’s basic energy plan aims to have 22 to 24 percent of the nation’s energy needs met by renewable sources, including wind and solar, by 2030, a figure critics describe as unambitious based on current levels of around 17 percent.
Japan has been struggling to cut carbon emissions after shutting down its nuclear reactors after the 2011 triple core meltdown in Fukushima that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
Kajiyama said officials were now “in the final stages of discussions” on stricter rules for exporting coal-fired power generators.
Mega-banks have been major financiers of the projects but have changed direction, said Yukari Takamura, an energy expert with the University of Tokyo’s Institute for Future Initiatives.
They now need “a clear policy guideline” to follow, she said.