Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Wisconsin companies can help with the shift from nuclear and coal-powered to renewable sources.

Japan's energy policy stands at its most crucial crosswords since the end of World War II. The government's fifth Basic Energy Plan declares that by 2030, Japan will strive to achieve the composition of electric power sources stipulated in the fourth basic plan. and will pave the way for the power supply to come principally from renewable energy sources, with renewable sources accounting for 22% to 24% of the nation’s total electricity generation by that time.

The plan emphasizes three fundamental points that must be kept in mind in choosing energy sources: (1) the experiences of the 2011 disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant and the resulting lessons, (2) self-sufficiency has consistently been the guiding principle for postwar Japan in selecting energy sources, and (3) Japan must follow the global trend toward decarbonization pursuant to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

While Japan had previously relied on nuclear power to meet about 30% of its electricity needs, after the 2011 Fukushima No.1 nuclear disaster, all nuclear reactors were shut down for safety concerns. Since then, Oi Nuclear Power Plant's reactors 3 and 4 were restarted on March 14, 2018, and May 9, 2018, respectively. On Aug. 11, 2015, and Nov. 1, 2015, the two reactors at the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant restarted. Following the Fukushima disaster, the general public has opposed the use of nuclear energy.

In short, an unintended social experiment served to prove the feasibility of reducing the nation's reliance on nuclear power to zero. One the one hand, the energy plan sets a target of having nuclear power account for 20-22% of the nation's electricity supply in 2030; on the other hand, it states that Japan should try to reduce its reliance on nuclear energy as much as possible. A key to resolving the contradiction lies in the future treatment of coal-fired thermal power, which is recognized as a foundational power source along with nuclear power. During Japan’s fiscal year 2017, coal-fired plants accounted for 30.4% of the power supply. For each kilowatt-hour of electricity generated, coal-fired plants emit nearly twice as much carbon dioxide as natural gas–fired plants. The plan aims to lower the share of coal-fired thermal power to about 10% of total electricity. To achieve that end, coal power plants with low conversion efficiency will have to be phased out, and it will be mandatory to shift to coal-fired power generation with much greater efficiency, which is more costly. This will inevitably push the share of coal-fired power in total electricity from the present 30% down to around 10%, increasing the nuclear share temporarily.

There will be no alternative but to make renewable energy a principal power source both in name and reality. Only when the share of renewable energy sources reaches 50% can Japan claim they are its principal power source. To overcome the problem of an unstable power supply from renewable sources, Japan must develop low-cost power storage batteries and enhance regional self-sufficiency of renewable energy. In addition, natural gas-fired and high-conversion-efficiency coal-fired thermal power generation must be pushed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and supplement renewable energy sources. Decarbonization will no longer be a dream if carbon capture and storage technology becomes a reality.