Japan’s net zero plan hits speed bump as small utilities balk


Japan will have to accelerate the closure of coal plants and ramp up renewable energy capacity over the next decade to meet Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (pic)pledge to be emissions neutral in 30 years.

TOKYO: Japan’s pledge to be a net zero greenhouse gas emitter by 2050 is running into headwinds: smaller power utilities addicted to coal and natural gas.

Hokkaido Electric Power Co and Tohoku Electric Power Co said on Wednesday they can’t set deadlines to become emissions neutral because it’s too costly to replace electricity output that would be lost by closing plants that burn fossil fuels.

“We won’t be able to become a net zero emitter without technological innovation, ” Takafumi Isono, the head of the utility’s accounting division, said during a briefing in Tokyo on Wednesday after the company released first half earnings.

“We cannot declare a net-zero emissions target now.”

Japan will have to accelerate the closure of coal plants and ramp up renewable energy capacity over the next decade to meet Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledge to be emissions neutral in 30 years.

Smaller regional utilities are more reliant on fossil fuels than the biggest power producer, Jera Co, which said earlier this month that it would be carbon neutral by 2050.

Hokkaido Electric and Okinawa Electric Power Co are the regional utilities most dependent on coal.

Tohoku Electric, less dependent on coal than Hokkaido, is also cautious about becoming carbon neutral as available technologies aren’t enough to lower emissions to zero, according to Yuji Sasaki, senior executive officer of the company.

Hokkaido Electric and Tohoku Electric said they will expand renewable energy and ask the atomic regulator to allow them to restart their nuclear power plants, which were halted after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, to help meet the government’s emission policy.

“Revolutionary innovation holds the key” to achieving carbon neutrality, Tohoku’s Sasaki told reporters in Tokyo. — Bloomberg

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