Japan unveiled a plan on Friday to achieve its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 which calls for doubling the share of renewables in power generation to at least 50%.
The government estimates that its “green growth strategy” will generate 190 trillion yen ($ 1.83 trillion) in economic impacts that year. The roadmap lists challenges and solutions in 14 major areas, including hydrogen and offshore wind. It calls for average net zero emissions from new buildings and home construction by 2030 and an end to all new gasoline-only vehicle sales by the middle of that decade.
The expected shift from fossil fuels to electricity across the Japanese economy is expected to increase electricity demand by between 30% and 50%. This makes ending energy companies’ dependence on coal-fired power plants and sharply increasing the adoption of renewables, a critical step in the plan.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told a news conference on Friday that the focus on decarbonizing “is not an obstacle to growth.” He said that investing to reach emissions targets will generate new economic growth, which in turn will spur more investment and create a virtuous cycle.
The government is looking to increase Japan’s now minimal offshore wind capacity to 45 gigawatts by 2040 – overtaking Germany, a leader in renewable energy.
The roadmap also sets a target of consuming nearly 20 million tons of hydrogen in 2050, with thermal power plants using clean burning fuels and generating 20% of Japan’s electricity. Reducing the cost of hydrogen, which is now many times more expensive than natural gas, to competitive levels through increased demand will be essential.
Tokyo is playing catch-up with major European economies like Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain, which get about 40% of their energy from renewables. The 50% to 60% target is seen as the most feasible for Japan, due to constraints such as scarcity of usable land.
Cars – incl Small, low-cost cars Another focal point of the plan. Japan has long been a world leader in conventional gasoline-powered cars, and the shift to green technology will likely take time.
“I cannot expect to achieve this without pioneering technological innovation,” said Akio Toyoda, president of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association and President of Toyota Motor Corporation. “We could risk losing our international competitiveness without efforts throughout the supply chain.”
This shift could be a problem for the industry’s huge network of parts suppliers, not least because electric vehicles use half as many components as those that use combustion engines.
“If cars become like home appliances,” said Toshihiro Nagahama of the Daiichi Life Research Institute, “Japan may lose its edge” as it becomes easier for manufacturers to obtain parts from all over the world. “The government will need to provide support, including capital, to related industries.”