Photo/Illutration The coal-fired thermal power plant in Matsuura, Nagasaki Prefecture, operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Japan will shut down 90 percent of its low-efficiency coal-fired thermal power plants within 10 years, but has no plans to rid itself entirely of fossil fuel power generation.

The economy ministry announced July 3 that about 100 of the 110 or so low-efficiency plants that emit the most amounts of carbon dioxide would be taken offline by fiscal 2030.

But the government still intends to go ahead with the construction of new more efficient coal-fired thermal plants, it said.

Japan’s dependence on coal-fired plants, as well as government support provided for the export of such technology, have generated considerable international criticism.

The government set a goal of coal-fired thermal plants accounting for 26 percent of total power generation in fiscal 2030. In fiscal 2018, coal-fired plants accounted for 32 percent of total power generation, second only behind plants that use liquid natural gas as its fuel.

The economy ministry also plans to convene a panel of experts to consider specific measures to reduce the volume of electricity generated by low-efficiency coal-fired thermal plants. One possibility that will be weighed is setting maximum power generation quotas for each electric power company.

This would require relevant legislation to be drawn up.

About 140 coal-fired thermal plants are in operation in Japan today. Even if low-efficiency facilities were mothballed, plans are still in the works to construct more efficient plants that would allow the government to reach its objective of 26-percent of total power generation from coal-fired thermal plants.

However, electric power companies are not expected to take the shutting down of plants lying down, partly because coal is a cheap source of fuel. Another factor is that the depreciation period for the older plants has ended, meaning they generate greater profits for the utilities.

The government is considering an incentive program to encourage electric power companies to shut down its low-efficiency plants.

(This article was written by Hiroki Ito and Rintaro Sakurai.)