“Energy White Paper 2021” updates the energy policy of Japan

The Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) submits an annual report to the Diet, which summarizes the measures implemented in the previous fiscal year in relation to energy supply and demand. Following the submission, the Annual Report on Energy (also known as the “Energy White Paper”) is published every year. It describes the energy trends at home and abroad, and summarizes the efforts made by Japan as well as its future policy directions. It is a must-read document for anyone who wants to learn about energy. This article highlights the essential parts of Energy White Paper 2021 published on June 4, 2021.

Status of Japan’s energy policy in 2021

An Energy White paper summarizes the energy situation and measures taken in the previous fiscal year, and consists of the following three parts:
(1) Analyzing the latest trends
(2) Energy data at home and abroad
(3) Measures taken in the previous fiscal year

Last year’s paper (Energy White Paper 2020) focused on the following:
(1) Progress in the reconstruction of Fukushima
(2) Resilience of energy systems in response to risks associated with disasters and changing international energy situations
(3) Countermeasures against global warming

The 2021 version focuses on challenges and efforts toward achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, in addition to the progress in the reconstruction of Fukushima. It explains efforts being made by private enterprises and financial institutions toward decarbonization while touching on the latest trends overseas. Stressing the necessity of stable procurement of resources, it presents structural changes in energy security that have been caused by global warming and devastating natural disasters. It also explains current challenges and measures to be taken.

Main topics of Energy White Paper 2021

Let us look at the main topics of Energy White Paper 2021.

1) Progress in the reconstruction of Fukushima

The Great East Japan Earthquake and the resulting accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station that occurred in 2011 dramatically changed the direction of Japan’s energy policy. March of 2021 marked the tenth anniversary of these incidents.

Evacuation orders had been lifted by March, 2020 in all areas except for the “Restricted Areas.” In “Restricted Areas” which are aiming to lift evacuation orders in 2022 or by the spring of 2023, “Specialized Reconstruction and Revitalization Bases” have been designated, and maintenance work is underway to allow evacuees to re-inhabit the areas. As highlighted in the 2020 White Paper, efforts are being made to create new industries and new industry clusters. These efforts are based on the “Fukushima Innovation Coast Framework” which is designed to reinvigorate local industries, and the “Fukushima Plan for a New Energy Society” which is creating a model for a new-energy-based society.

New developments have been seen onsite at the Fukushima Daiichi NPS toward its decommissioning and contaminated/treated water management. Fuel removal from the spent fuel pool was completed in Units 3 and 4 by February, 2021. Fuel removal will be completed in all Units by 2031. Retrieval of fuel debris that was melted down and solidified due to the accident at the NPS will commence in Unit 2 on an experimental basis by the end of 2021. To this end, decontamination and investigation are underway using remote-controlled devices and equipment.

Furthermore, a basic policy on the disposal of ALPS-treated water was determined in April, 2021. It shows that release into the ocean is the most realistic option on the premise of strict conformity with the regulatory standards.

The reconstruction of Fukushima is progressing steadily. However, a number of challenges remain. Various efforts will be made toward the decommissioning of the NPS and the reconstruction of Fukushima.

2) Challenges and efforts toward achieving carbon neutrality by 2050

In October, 2020, Prime Minister Suga declared that Japan aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Moreover, in the Leaders’ Summit on Climate in April, 2021, he stated that Japan aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 46% in FY2030 from FY2013 levels.

The Prime Minister’s statements were made against the backdrop of accelerating trends toward decarbonization worldwide. In the financial sector, movement toward decarbonization is advancing, and investment strategies are becoming more diversified. ESG investment is increasing with Environment, Social and Governance factors incorporated into decision-making on investment. In the private sector, unprecedented efforts are being made toward decarbonization.

As of April, 2021, 125 countries and one area have declared that they will achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. They are actively supporting R&D for green technology and the introduction of cutting-edge technology. They are enacting policy measures to support efforts toward decarbonization, which will also be conducive to recovery from the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Japan, the “Green Growth Strategy through Achieving Carbon Neutrality in 2050” was published in December, 2020, proposing the following sector-specific measures for decarbonization:
In the power sector, decarbonized power sources should be expanded.
In the non-power sectors, namely industry, general and transport, decarbonization should be advanced by electrification of energy with the remaining heat hydrogenated. CO2 that is still remaining should be utilized for methanation and producing synthetic fuels, or otherwise recovered.

“Carbon Recycling” is a technology that utilizes CO2 as a resource, in which Japan is expected to lead the world in the future.

3) Changing energy security

Japan imports approximately 90% of its primary energy requirements. Therefore, it is vulnerable to energy supply disruptions overseas. Should disruptions occur, Japan would face difficulties in securing necessary resources.

Efforts have been made to diversify risks by promoting alternatives to oil, which is the main source of energy, while exploring ways to increase domestically produced sources of energy. The White Paper 2021 reviews the history of energy security and describes structural changes that are taking place.

In recent years, new factors in energy security are being studied, which include expanded use of renewable energy to respond to climate change, and cyber security enhancements that will enable mass introduction of renewables. Additionally, in response to devastating natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes, active discussions are being held worldwide on how to minimize damage and recover quickly after a disaster.

In line with these structural changes, numerical evaluation of energy security is being adopted by international organizations. Also in Japan, past White Papers presented numerical evaluation with seven indicators including self-sufficiency ratio of primary energy and diversification of supply sources. The latest edition has added two new indicators, which are 1) power storage capacity to provide the power system with flexibility, and 2) cyber security for the power system in line with the digitalization that is in progress. It compares Japan’s energy security with those of other countries using nine indicators.

The latest trends in Japan and the world

The Energy White Paper 2021 summarizes measures taken in relation to the supply and demand of energy in FY2020.

As Japan depends mostly on imports for its primary energy requirements, the latest White Paper describes Japan’s current energy policy and its goals. It highlights measures for a stable supply of energy, expanded use of renewable energy, and supply chain resilience against devastating natural disasters. Moreover, it touches on worldwide trends in relation to energy.

Reading White Paper 2021 will provide you with fresh insights about energy, which is critical not only to our daily lives but also to the global state of affairs.

Division in charge

About Special Contents

Research and Public Relations Office, Policy Planning and Coordination Division, Commissioner’s Secretariat, ANRE

The original Japanese text of this article; Click here