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Green Globe: Report finds Japan is losing ground in clean energy markets

Japan is already falling behind in renewable energy use compared to the rest of the world, an advisory panel to Foreign Minister Taro Kono warned in a new report on climate change and energy. That could hinder the country's overall competitiveness in global markets, the advisers said.

SNL Image
Japan Foreign Minister Taro Kono at the United Nations headquarters in December 2017. Japan has set a goal of covering between 22% to 24% of electricity with renewables by 2030.
Source: Associated Press

In recommendations published Feb. 19, Kono's Advisory Panel on Climate Change encouraged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration to consider "renewable energy diplomacy" by taking a leading role in the global effort to limit climate change and create decarbonized societies.

"If Japan continues its policy incompatible with the global decarbonizing efforts, it may be left behind not only in [the] energy and environment sector, but also may hinder its industrial competitiveness in the global market, which now pays serious attention to carbon risks," the panel wrote in its report.

Export.gov reported that Japan added nearly 34 GW of new renewable energy from July 2012 through the end of 2016. China accounted for 40% of the world's new renewable energy capacity in 2016, bringing online more than 360 GW of clean energy. According to Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's 2017 white paper on its energy sector, the country's energy goals include implementing energy conservation and renewable energy policies that consider environmental concerns at the same time.

India is opening up coal mining to commercial miners. Marking the biggest act of reform in the country's coal sector since the 1970s, the move will also end state-run company Coal India Ltd.'s 43-year monopoly on the industry.

According to India-based magazine Business Today, India's Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs signed off on a plan to auction off coal mines. Until now, coal mines were auctioned for captive power generation; now, they will be sold to private miners in India and across the world.

The move is part of a broader initiative to make the coal sector more competitive and fuel the economies of coal-producing regions, the country's coal and railways minister, Piyush Goyal, said. According to India Times' business publication The Economic Times, the reform will also help the industry meet demand, something Coal India had struggled to do.

"Owners of distressed assets will no longer worry about uncertain fuel supplies and can contract with commercial coal suppliers to revive projects," Kameswara Rao, a partner and leader of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP India's energy, utilities and mining group, told The Economic Times. The efforts to boost the coal sector conflict with the government's push to increase renewable energy capacity to 175 GW by the end of 2022.

Australia's first large-scale solar and battery storage project has come online with enough energy to power 3,000 buildings, a positive sign for other hybrid projects in the country.

Germany-based solar company Conergy AG's Lakeland Solar and Storage project will pair 10.8 MW of solar capacity with a 1.4-MW/5.3-MWh lithium-ion battery, according to PV Tech. The project cost A$42.5 million, or US$33.6 million, and received funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to cover nearly half of the project costs.

"The ambitious project by Conergy has helped to show the importance of combining storage technologies with large-scale solar," the government agency's CEO, Ivor Frischknecht, said. "Lakeland is a demonstration for how integrated solar and batteries can together deliver dispatchable supply feeding electricity into the grid when it is needed, whether or not the sun is available at that moment."

Australia has seen several hybrid projects pop up in the past year. Tesla Inc. completed a 100-MW/129-MWh battery system at Neoen SAS' Hornsdale Wind Farm in November 2017. Vestas Wind Systems A/S and a group of renewable energy developers are also working on a up to 6-GW wind and solar hybrid plant that would export its electricity to Indonesia.

Elsewhere:

* Spain-based Iberdrola SA CEO Ignacio Galán said the end of an era of cheap money will lead to Enron-style collapses of companies in the renewables sector, The Financial Times reported.

* The United States is pursuing a deal to sell nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia despite concerns over the risks of nuclear proliferation, according to The Wall Street Journal.

* Egypt-based Dolphinus Holdings signed deals to buy $15 billion of natural gas from Israel, Reuters reported. The two 10-year contracts were called one of the most significant trade agreements between the two countries since they signed their historic peace treaty in 1979.

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