In the wake of COP28: Japan's energy pivot and the path to a sustainable tomorrow

Fan Ren-zhi, Taipei; Vyra Wu, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: AFP

Following the COP28 held in Dubai, signatory nations are mandated to triple their renewable energy generation capacities by 2030 compared to 2022 levels. This significant shift in global climate policy presents a unique opportunity for countries, particularly those sharing environmental similarities with Japan, such as Taiwan, to glean insights into effective strategies.

Nikkei reports that Japan, however, currently falls short of the COP28 stipulation, with its 2030 renewable energy target standing at only 1.5 times the 2022 benchmark. To bridge this gap, Japan is strategically targeting three key areas: harnessing solar energy in agricultural and urban landscapes, developing offshore wind power systems tailored to the Japanese context, and exploring diverse fields like geothermal, biomass, and energy storage.

The narrative of Japan's solar power landscape has seen a paradigm shift from the focus on mega solar power plants in the 2010s to a more recent emphasis on the use of agriculturally and urbanically secure spaces. Political opposition has risen against large solar power plants due to an increase in natural disasters since 2017, attributed to the lack of environmental impact assessments and development in unsuitable areas.

Technologically, Japan is looking to champion the use of cutting-edge perovskite solar cells (PSC). Recognizing that past setbacks were more regulatory than technological, the current focus is on regulatory reforms, such as land-use conversion and building standards modifications, to stimulate private sector investments. Similar regulatory hurdles are evident in the realms of smart grid construction and the utilization of agricultural waste for biomass fuel.

Japan's seismic and meteorological landscape, boasting top-tier earthquake and tsunami frequencies and extreme wind intensities exceeding those in Europe, poses challenges in adopting Europe's wind power construction experiences. Nikkei highlights a crucial need for Japan to secure a hefty investment of JPY 6 to 7 trillion (approximately US$43-50 billion) to overcome these challenges, emphasizing the pivotal decision-making process in technology investments.

While Japan ranks third globally in geothermal reserves, barriers include the intricacies of constructing geothermal power plants, technological complexities, and regulatory impediments affecting the hot spring tourism industry. The promotion of geothermal energy is marked by high levels of difficulty.

In contrast, investments in energy storage systems for solar and wind power construction, encompassing contributions from the electrical and materials industries, as well as the burgeoning hydrogen energy sector in the automotive industry, exhibit a more defined trajectory with substantial private sector backing. The government's role now lies in aligning with the progress of solar and wind power projects and incentivizing timely private investments. This unfolding narrative underscores the critical interplay of global climate goals and localized strategies, echoing a pivotal moment in the transition towards sustainable energy solutions.