On June 12th, 2015, Japan’s Ministry of Environment released their statement on the Yamaguchi-Ube Power Generation Co. Ltd’s plan for a new power plant saying that it’s “difficult to endorse.
The Ministry of Environment made its statement on the first step of the EIA document for the newly planned coal-fired power plant (two units with a total capacity of 1200MW, 600MW each) in Ube, Yamaguchi-prefecture. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is expected to make a counterstatement sometime around June 26th.
Statement by the Ministry of Environment
The Ministry of Environment cited that the power industry has not developed a framework to reduce CO2 emissions and has not cleared counter measures against CO2 emissions on this particular power plant project. He expressed concerns over the new coal power plants because it could threaten the 2030’s 26% reduction target (compared to 2013 greenhouse gas emission levels).
This is very unusual which was welcomed by the public. Kiko Network pointed out that, if built, the Ube plant will emit an estimated 7.2 Mt-CO2 once operations begin and supports the Minister of Environment’s stance. In addition, Kiko Network calls on METI to reconsider the Ube project as well as other existing coal power projects. Should the number of new construction plans for coal power continue to rise, the Minister’s statement, which can help alter the current dynamics, was widely reported by domestic media outlets.
Debate in the Diet
This issue was raised in the Diet.
At the Committee on Economy, Trade and Industry in the House of Councilors held on June 16th, Masayuki Naoshima (Democratic Party of Japan), Toru Azuma (Japan Restoration Party) and Akiko Kurabayashi (Communist Party) inquired about coal power projects in Japan including the Ube plant. However, when asked about the consistency between greenhouse gas emission reduction target and the agreement at the G7 summit, PM Shinzo Abe and the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yoichi Miyazawa only repeated that they would support highly efficient coal plants. The Diet members in the committee responded that the coal plants would speed up global warming and that they would not be accepted on the international front.
The governor of Yamaguchi prefecture requests reconsideration of plans for new power plant
The next day, on June 17th, the governor of Yamaguchi prefecture also released his own statement. He requested that the amount of potential CO2 emissions from the plant be made clear during the EIA process. He recognizes that it is necessary to reconsider the project based on the government’s statement. In other words, he more or less supports the Ministry of Environment’s statement.
For the first time after 3.11 (the Great East Japan Earthquake), the Minister of Environment’s statement confronted the problematic reality of the rapid increase in coal power plant projects. It seems the tides is turning. We now wait in anticipation for the Ministry of Economy’s statement. The Minister of Economy should deeply consider the statement from Ministry of Environment and decide to drop the coal power projects.
・Minister’s opinion on the environmental assessment for the new Nishiokinoyama Power Plant (tentative name) building project（2015/6/12 Ministry of Environment, Japanese）
・PRESS RELEASE: Minister of Environment says “No” to plans for new coal plant – Plans for new coal plants must come to an end – (June 12th, 2015)
・Prefectural governor’s opinion on the first step of the EIA document for the new Nishiokinoyama Power Plant (tentative name) building project (2015/6/17 Yamaguchi Prefecture)
Media coverage (in Japanese)
NHK (June 12th 2015)
Mainichi Newspaper (June 12th 2015)
Asahi Newspaper (June 12th 2015)
Nikkei Newspaper (June 12th 2015)
Yamaguchi Newspaper (June 18th 2015)