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Japan starts regulatory discussions on phasing out inefficient coal-fired power plants

Highlights

Working group to consider regulatory measures to phase out inefficient plants by 2030

METI cites need to move toward zero inefficient coal-fired units

Japan aims to cut coal share in 2030-31 energy mix to 26% from 32% in 2018-19

Tokyo — Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Aug. 7 launched formal policy discussions to consider a regulatory framework to ensure the country phases out inefficient coal-fired power plants by 2030, with measures including limiting new construction of inefficient plants.

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The latest move followed a directive announced July 3 by Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshi Kajiyama to start drawing up a new, more effective framework to ensure the phasing out of inefficient coal-fired power plants by 2030 as part of Japan's strategic energy plan.

METI set up a working group in August under its advisory committee for natural resources and energy to look into this.

During Aug. 7's working group discussions, METI assessed how strong the regulatory measures would need to be to enforce the phase out as well as what degree of autonomy should be given to companies to implement it.

The working group intends to outline its basic policy direction beyond October and to decide on its policy response after having two sessions of hearings with business and industry representatives over late August to September.

METI urges action

METI has cited the need for Japan to move on reducing its power generation from inefficient coal-fired plants to close to zero to achieve its target of a 26% share for coal in its energy mix in fiscal 2030-31 (April-March), down from 32% in fiscal 2018-19 as there are some new efficient plants under construction. METI said the plants in the inefficient category accounted for 16% of coal-fired generation. Coal's share was around 23% before the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 and rose to 31% by 2015 to make up for shuttered nuclear plants.

As of fiscal 2018-19, Japan had 114 inefficient coal-fired power units, comprising sub critical plants with less than 38% power generation efficiency and super critical plants with 38%-40% efficiency, according to METI.

The inefficient coal-fired units accounted for 81% of the total 140 coal-fired power plants, of which 26 units were integrated gasification combined cycle units with power generation efficiency of 46-50% and ultra-super critical plants with 41%-43% efficiency.

The fifth strategic energy plan approved by the cabinet in July 2018 promotes conversion to high efficiency and next-generation coal-fired power generation in Japan in return for phasing out inefficient coal use.