After Fukushima: What’s Next for Japan’s Energy and Climate Change Policy?

INTRODUCTION

Following the devastating March earthquake, tsunami and nuclear incident at Fukushima Daiichi, the Japanese government has begun a process of reviewing its energy policy and specifically the role of nuclear power in the country. The choices that Japan makes will have important implications for energy and climate change policy for Japan and globally.

Japan is currently the world’s third largest economy, with a GDP in 2010 of $5.49 trillion, only slight smaller than China’s GDP of $5.87 trillion. The size of Japan’s economy and its scarcity of domestic energy sources mean that changes in Japan’s energy consumption will have to be realized on world markets and will have implications for the availability and price of these energy sources for other countries.

Currently, 9 percent of Japan’s electricity is generated from renewable energy, of which about 8 percent is from hydroelectric power. The rest is generated from nuclear power (26 percent), liquefied natural gas or LNG (28 percent), coal (25 percent) and petroleum (13 percent). Under Japan’s Basic Energy Plan that was revised in June 2010, the 2030 targets for Japan’s energy sector were for renewable energy to increase to 20 percent of the generation mix, nuclear power to increase to 50 percent, while LNG and coal would be reduced to approximately 10 percent of electricity generation, with oil generating the remainder.