Special

Interview: Diet Member Pushes for Expansion of Renewable Energy (1)

2017/10/11 17:19
Kenji Kaneko, Nikkei BP Intelligence Group, CleanTech Institute
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The "Parliamentary Association for Promotion of Renewable Energies" (Chaired by Masahiko Shibayama, a Lower House member) formed by members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) worked out a proposal that includes "increasing the ratio of renewable energies in all power sources up to 44% by 2030" and handed it to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga Sept 15, 2017.

We interviewed Masatoshi Akimoto, a lower house member and the Acting Secretary General of the association, and asked about the background of the proposal and detailed promotion measures.

44% non-fossil fuel power sources is essential

Masatoshi Akimoto, a lower house member (the Acting Secretary General of the Parliamentary Association for Promotion of Renewable Energies)

Q: Discussions have started for a review of the "basic energy plan," and one of the issues is whether or not the "ratio of renewable energies" set at 22 to 24% as the best mix (ideal power source configuration) for 2030 should be increased. Could you explain the background of the newly suggested "44% set for renewable energies"?

Akimoto: Following ratification of the Paris Agreement in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Japan clearly expressed in the Act on Sophisticated Methods of Energy Supply Structures that the ratio of "non-fossil fuel power sources" in all power sources will be improved to 44% in 2030. This is an international commitment and has to be achieved without fail.

"Non-fossil fuel power sources" consist only of renewable energies and nuclear power. The current best mix of "44%" consists of 22 to 24% of renewable energies and 20 to 22% of nuclear power. However, we think that it will be very difficult to attain the goal of "20 to 22% set for nuclear power."

Under such situation, the ratio of renewable energies needs to be increased to attain the goal of "44%." It is possible that the ratio of nuclear power generation in 2030 will be several percent when consideration is given to the current situation of nuclear power plant operation restarts and future measures for the "40-year decommissioning rule." Under such circumstances, more than 40% of the ratio needs to be covered by renewable energies, which will be possible.

Q: At the meeting of the "basic energy plan" organized by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), which was started in August, Hiroshige Seko, the Minister of METI, expressed his passive attitude toward the change of the best mix distribution ratio saying, "The review this time does not coincide with the timing of changing the overall framework of the energy policy."

Akimoto: METI perhaps plans to observe the trend in restarts of nuclear power plant operations for some more time and discuss the increase in the ratio of renewable energies three years later at a meeting to review the "basic energy plan." However, we think the timing is too late.

Insufficient power grid capacity is one of the factors that restrict expansion of renewable energies. It is not easy to solve the issue by strengthening the grids. We will not be able to achieve the goal set for 2030 unless we work out a plan now and take proper action at an early stage.