Report: Japan Sleeping On Its Offshore Wind Potential

Japanese offshore wind-power resources have been largely overlooked but have tremendous potential, and can viably contribute to the country’s baseload power in the post-nuclear era, according to a report released by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

The report —“Japan: Greater Energy Security Through Renewables: Electricity Transformation in a Post-Nuclear Economy”—emphasizes the potential for national energy security through renewables, most especially wind and solar.

While onshore wind development has been slow due to Japan’s lengthy approvals process for the limited suitable land available, significant and overlooked opportunities exist in offshore wind development, IEEFA said.

Offshore wind’s inherent absence of land constraint issues works in its favor, IIEFA said, as do its utilization rates of 45 to 50 percent, an indication that it can contribute to baseload power. IEEFA sees 10 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind in Japan by FY2030.

According to the report, Japan can meet 35 percent of its electricity needs with renewables by 2030. Assuming a much-needed policy push to increase solar and offshore wind capacity, and factoring in the country’s probable electricity demand reduction, Japan’s total renewable energy share will double to 35% of generation by 2030.

IEEFA sees this including hydro and biomass and acknowledges that it depends on the Japanese government delivering on its COP21 pledge. It will require a major lowering of regulatory and grid barriers to renewable energy projects, changes that will allow Japan to tap capital markets to support national renewable energy programs.

Japan can gain enormously and in a myriad of ways by adopting an electricity-transition model built on renewables, according to IEEFA.

If Japan takes this path, it will have overhauled its electricity system by 2030 in a way that will drastically increase its energy security, reduce its current account deficit and build long-lasting technology capacities in industries of the future.

In the six years since the Fukushima accident, Japan has grown increasingly, and perilously, reliant on fossil fuel imports for 82% of its electricity generation, the report states. This has contributed to a reversal in its trade balance from 30 years of trade surplus to a deficit that reached USD 116 billion in 2014.

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