Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: The country has become dependent on imports of fossil fuels since reducing its nuclear capacity in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

Japan’s rapid industrial growth since the end of World War II doubled the nation’s energy consumption every five years into the 1990s. During the accelerated growth period of 1960-1972, energy consumption grew much faster than GDP, doubling Japan’s share of world energy consumption. By 1976, with only 3 percent of the world’s population, Japan was consuming 6 percent of global energy supplies.

Electricity in Japan is relatively expensive compared to other nations, and since the loss of nuclear power after the earthquake and tsunami disaster at Fukushima, the cost of electricity has risen even more.

In 1950, coal supplied half of Japan’s energy needs, hydroelectricity one-third and oil the rest. By 2001, the contribution of oil had increased to more than half of the total, with increases also in the use of nuclear power and natural gas. Japan now depends heavily on imported fossil fuels to meet its energy demand.

Japan currently produces about 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. The country’s Fourth Strategic Energy Plan set a renewable share goal of 24 percent by 2030. In the next 15 years, Japan intends to invest $700 billion in renewable energy. One initiative the Japanese government has implemented to boost the amount of renewable energy produced and purchased in Japan is a feed-in-tariff scheme.

In 2014, Japan ranked fifth in the world for electricity production, after the U.S., China, Russia and India, with 934 TWh produced that year. Prior to 2011, almost one-quarter of its electricity production was from nuclear plants, compared with 76 percent for France and 20 percent for the U.S. However, after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and subsequent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, all plants eventually shut down in May 2012.

Since the generation disruption caused by the Fukushima disaster, rapid steps have been made to liberalize the electricity supply market. One of these is the feed-in-tariff scheme announced in 2012 as a direct consequence of the Fukushima disaster. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry set prices for various renewable energy sources.

Today, Japan’s renewable energy generation is overwhelming hydropower. The ratio of renewable power generation has decreased from 25 percent of total electricity generation in 1970 to 10 of today. Extremely aggressive feed-in-tariffs for renewable energy introduced in July 2012 are showing modest results to reverse this trend. Initially, solar energy projects are dominating feed-in-tariff projects, since solar projects are fastest to build. Larger projects such as offshore wind power and geothermal projects take a much longer time to plan and build—on the order of 10 years or longer.

The government set solar photovoltaic targets in 2004 and revised them in 2009:

  • 29 GW of solar photovoltaic capacity by 2020
  • 53 GW of solar photovoltaic capacity by 2030
  • 10 percent of total domestic primary energy demand met with solar photovoltaic by 2050

Japan is a leading manufacturer of photovoltaic devices, which  use semiconductors in order to generate electricity from sunlight. Solar companies of Japan include Kyocera, Mitsubishi Electric, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Sanyo, Sharp Solar, Solar Frontier and Toshiba.

In Japan’s electricity sector, wind power generates a small proportion of the country’s electricity. As of 2015, the country had a total installed capacity of 3,167 MW. The government targets for wind power deployment are relatively low compared with other countries—1.7 percent of electricity production by 2030. It has been estimated that Japan has the potential for 144 GW of onshore and 608 GW of offshore wind capacity.