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Why is Tokyo Gas too, constructing coal power, not gas? – Despite Environmental Minister’s objection, Sodegaura’s coal project keeps moving forward –

Sodegarua coal-fired power plant in Chiba is one of the 5 projects that the Minister of the Environment objected to in its first EIA statement last year. On January 29th, Chiba-Sodegaura Energy Co., Ltd., the business operator for this project, submitted its scoping document (their second statement) of EIA to the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). The Chiba-Sodegaura Energy Co., Ltd. is a new company established in May 2015 by Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd., Kyushu Electric Power Co. and Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd. who all have equal shares in this company.

Sodegaura coal fired power plant project is in progress

The Sodegaura project, with an installed capacity of 2,000MW, is one of the biggest among the 47 planned units in the country. Operations are set to start in 2025. The 2025 is an exact year that the UK announced that they intend to shut down all its coal fired power plants by. Japan, on the other hand, is still planning to build and start operations on new coal-fired plants. No matter how unbelievable their actions are, Japanese operators don’t seem concerned about the global trends. They have steadily implement the EIA process on the plants.

At the public explanatory meeting for the EIA scoping document for the Sodegarura projects on February 11th, approximately 50 local residents attended. A Sodegaura resident mentioned on his blog that he felt that the atmosphere at this meeting was slightly unusual. Because twenty-four questions were raised, half of them were related to climate change and all of them demonstrated that the attendees had a lot of interest in the project. The questions included: “Is the construction plan not against the Paris Agreement?”, “How is the operator planning to achieve the standard emission target of 0.37kg-CO2/kWh?” and “Doesn’t the construction of coal-fired plants go against the international trend, not to mention risky?”

Unfortunately, the operator did not provide affable responses to these questions. The operator answered all questions in one response and simply repeated existing allegations. They repeated their original position. Say, “coal has low geopolitical risks and that it is stable, and cheap”. “Coal also plays an important role as a base-load energy resource for Japan’s national basic energy plan, therefore coal-fired plants are worth developing”. “Since this project uses the most advanced technology (BAT or Best Available Technology) and is being commercially used in various plants, this doesn’t pose a problem”. “There is no variance between the national target and plan regarding future emission because electric retailers, not operator itself, will implement their own new voluntary framework to achieve the emission target”, etc.

There is no way that residents could accept such explanation.
On February 8th, major power companies and newcomers (such as PPSs – Power Producers and Suppliers) jointly announced a new committee called the “Electric Power and Low-carbon Society Committee”. However, their policies show no evidence of progress and lacks detailed suggestions or countermeasures to achieve a 0.37kg-CO2/kWh target. While operators rely on the responsibility on electricity retailers who have the emission intensity target, they insist there won’t be any problem. But, how can we trust retailers who have never met their voluntary targets so far?

Right from the start, Tokyo Gas promoted the environmental-friendly performance of natural gas. Even supposing that they want to get involved in the electricity liberalization, started in April 2016 with “cheaper” electricity, it is a question of why they want to build new coal fired power plants now even though they know that coal is more damaging to the environment than natural gas.

Reference

The opinion brief submitted by Kiko Network is available here (PDF) (Japanese only)
The Opinion Brief】(Tentative Title) Opinions on the environmental impact evaluation method statement of the Sodegaura thermal power plant #1 & #2 in Chiba. (2/26/2016)