On August 14th, 2015, Japan’s Minister of the Environment again objected to a coal-fired power plant in a statement submitted to the Minister of Economy, Industry and Trade (METI) over the planning stage of the EIA for the planned replacement of the Taketoyo Thermal Plant (to be built by Chubu Electric Power Co. in Taketoyo Town, Aichi Prefecture). The Minister remarked that this plan goes against the government’s overall target to reduce national carbon emissions.
This development plan for the Taketoyo thermal power plant will involve building a coal-fired No. 5 unit (1070MW) which will replace the existing heavy/crude oil-fired No. 2 to 4 units (total capacity of 1125MW) which will be decommissioned and demolished.
Importance of Minister’s objection
This objection is significant in two ways. One is that this is the first time the Ministry of Environment objected to a replacement plan. Even though Chubu Electric is planning to replace old units with new ones, the coal-fired plants could not be approved because of their potentially high CO2 emissions.
In addition, the Ministry’s statement came just after Japanese electric utilities announced the establishment of a voluntary framework and set up their initiative entitled “Commitment to a Low-Carbon Society”. This announcement was made a month ago on July 17th by Japan’sFederation of Electric Power Companies, J-Power, Japan Atomic Power Co., and 23 PPSs (Power Producer and Supplier) with the aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Ministry of environment had been pushing for the establishment of a voluntarily environmental framework by Japanese electric utilities. However, after the framework was set up, the ministry pointed out that there were still many problems with the framework as it was not consistent with the government’s emissions reduction target.
Following the Ministry’s statement, Kiko Network issued a press release to show their support. In their statement, Kiko Network requested METI to reconsider their replacement plan and insisted Chubu Electric Power Co. to seriously consider a fundamental overhaul of their project and switch to clean, renewable energy instead.
Isn’t it time for Japan to rethink plans for new new coal-fired power plants from the ground up?
The statement by the Ministry of Environment clearly indicates that the construction of coal-fired power plants cannot help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, even if they are replacements for old plants or made under the voluntarily framework. It is time to change the way we think about the construction of coal-fired power plants.
The Voluntary framework by electric power group
The establishment of the voluntarily framework had been on hold for nearly 2 years. In April 2013, in a meeting concerning TEPCO’s thermal power plant bids, director generals from the Ministry of Environment and METI agreed the power industry should form this framework. However, the Minister of Environment made it clear in his statement that although the framework was finally established, it doesn’t seem to be very effective.
First of all, the intensity target of 0.37kg-CO2/kWh proposed by the utilities is too low. The power industry needs to move towards a low-carbon society, but their 2030 target doesn’t even meet the target set way back in 1997. It is a huge setback and is insufficient in solving the problems of climate change. Second, this framework only includes retail traders and excludes power plant developers selling electricity to major power providers. Kobe Steel Ltd., for example, which plans to build power plants and sell electricity to KEPCO, is excluded. The power industry says that the voluntary framework currently covers over 99% of our power supply. In the case of more PPSs (power producers and suppliers) joining the framework causing the proportion of electricity supplied by major plant developers to drop, the measures set by the country’s power sector would be insufficient. To make matters worse, the “voluntarily” aspect makes these measures questionable. Japan’sFederation of Electric Power Companies had voluntarily taken measures against climate change in the past, but it could not reach its own reduction target. What will happen with this new attempt? We might just get a bad case of déjà vu.
Since their “commitment” hasn’t disclosed any clear plans to build coal-fired power plants or resume nuclear power plant operations, it is hard judge whether this plan is inadequate or not. Unfortunately, this initiative leaves much to be desired.
On July 27th, the Ministry of Environment held a hearing to discuss the effectiveness of the framework. Experts heavily criticized the framework, saying that there is a huge risk of failure; the structure of the voluntary framework requires effective governmental policies. It is imperative that the power sector reduces its greenhouse gas emissions. Both the framework and their own commitment should be reviewed and reworked into more effective initiatives.
The Minister of Environment submits statement on the planning stages of the environmental impact assessment for the replacement of the Taketoyo thermal power plant (Japanese)
The Ministry of Environment, August 14th, 2015
About the development of “The Commitment to a Low-Carbon Society” by the 10 Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan and 23 PPSs (Japanese)
The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, July 17th, 2015
Reuters, August 14, 2015
Japan environment ministry to object to another coal-fired power plant: NHK
Power Engineering International (PEI) August 14th, 2015
Japan minister to object to coal-fired power project
Chubu Electric Power Press Release, February 6th, 2015
Plans for Development of Taketoyo Thermal Power Plant Unit 5