The government in 2009 announced the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 from the 1990 level. The assumption was that nuclear power would play a central role. In 2010, the government’s basic energy plan called for increasing the nuclear contribution to 53 percent of total power generation from 30 percent at that time.
That was before the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was struck by an earthquake and tsunami. The ensuing nuclear crisis has made it necessary to drastically revise the basic energy plan.
Because Japan will have to rely heavily on thermal power generation at least in the short run, there is the view that Japan should drop its goal to cut emissions by 25 percent.
But Japan should seriously seek a path of reducing its reliance on nuclear power while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, although this won’t be easy.
In pursuing this path, the government as well as power and other industries must improve their technologies for saving energy and power, raise people’s and industries’ consciousness about saving energy and power, and lay a foundation for promoting power generation through renewable sources.
The last point will include liberalizing the power distribution system to accelerate the entry of small-size power generation entities; introducing a smart grid and improving power storage technology to flexibly cope with changes in electricity demand and supply; creating a new power transmission system to enable transmission of “green” power generated in remote places; and introducing technology or facilities to overcome difficulties in dealing with the different electricity frequencies in eastern and western Japan.
The government also must prepare an outlook that shows changes in energy demand and supply over the years, while factoring in energy- and power-saving efforts, as well as an outlook that shows how much fossil fuel will be used during the transition period.
The government should pay serious attention to a June report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which states that 77 percent of the world’s energy supply could be met by renewables by 2050 if the right policies are adopted.
It should promote green energy with the same eagerness that it demonstrated in promoting nuclear power.