Commentary on Japan’s Policy Plan for “Phasing out Inefficient Coal-fired Plants” ―The Plan is not consistent with the Paris Agreementー


On 7 July 2020, the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) released its commentary regarding the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s plan to begin phasing out inefficient coal-fired power plants. IGES analyses demonstrate that this policy is inconsistent with the Paris Agreement.

This commentary illustrates the extent to which the policy is in alignment with the 1.5ºC/2ºC Paris Agreement targets. In the analysis, power generation and CO2 emissions were estimated for coal plants due to be decommissioned and large-scale plants respectively, and these values were compared to outputs from integrated assessment and energy models. Promoting the phase-out of inefficient coal plants is in and of itself encouraging; however, it is important to note that the plan also includes replacement of such inefficient plants with large and highly efficient coal-fired power plants. This means that the plan does not make a radical shift away from conventional energy policy and appears to be insufficient for remaining on track towards meeting the long-term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement. Thus, in addition to phasing out inefficient coal-fired power plants, it is necessary to take measures aimed at transitioning the entire energy sector to net-zero emissions.

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【Key Points】

•    It is welcomed that the Ministry of Economic, Industry and Trade announced a new policy plan to phase out inefficient coal-fired thermal power plants by 2030 in Japan.
•    However, this policy plan does not mean a substantial shift from the conventional energy policy of replacing small-scale, inefficient coal-fired power plants with large-scale, high-efficiency ones. The policy plan is also insufficient as a Japan’s effort to contribute to the long-term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement.
•    Most of the units which are expected to be phased-out under this policy plan are small-scale ones. It is estimated that if coal-fired power plants currently panned and under construction come into operation, there will still be 50 units of 33 GW in 2030. 
•    33   GW   of   highly   efficient coal-fired   power   plants   would   reduce   coal-fired   power generation by 44TWh-102TWh, and CO2 emissions by 37 million to 62 million tons from what Japan’s nationally determined contribution (NDC) assumes. However, these are inconsistent with most of the figures in the scenario studies of Japan's reduction targets that are consistent with the Paris Agreement.
•    Out of the 50 units, 21 units (14.5 GW) are expected to have been in operation for 20 years or less as of 2030, and likely to operate up to 2050. Of these, there are only four plants (1.5 GW) using integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) which is said to be compatible with carbon capture technology, but the rest are using ultra-super critical (USC) technologies that do not plan to equip with carbon capture technology, which in turn causes a long-term lock-in of CO2 emissions.