One unintended consequences of the Fukushima nuclear disaster almost a decade ago is that Japan now plans to build as many as 22 new coal-burning power plants — one of the dirtiest sources of electricity — at 17 different sites over the next five years. This is at a time when the world needs to slash carbon dioxide emissions to fight global warming. Together, the 22 power plants would emit almost as much carbon dioxide annually as all the passenger cars sold each year in the United States.
The construction stands in contrast with Japan’s effort to portray this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo as one of the greenest ever.
Japan relies on coal for more than a third of its power generation needs. And while older coal plants will start retired, eventually reducing overall coal dependency, the country still expects to meet more than a quarter of its electricity needs from coal in 2030.
Japan, a country with no natural resources other than geo-thermal, is an anomaly among developed economies.Together with natural gas and oil, fossil fuels account for about four-fifths of Japan’s electricity needs, while renewable sources of energy, led by hydropower, make up about 16 percent. Reliance on nuclear energy, which once provided up to a third of Japan’s power generation, plummeted to 3 percent in 2017, a direct result of Fukushima.
The Japanese government’s policy of financing coal power in developing nations, alongside China and South Korea, has also come under scrutiny. The country is second only to China in the financing of coal plants overseas.
Japan: not anywhere near as green as its government would like the outside world to think.