Japan to accelerate closure of old coal power plants

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan will introduce measures to accelerate the closure of old, inefficient coal power plants by 2030, the country’s industry minister, Hiroshi Kajiyama, said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Japan's new Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama attends a news conference at the ministry in Tokyo, Japan October 25, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

But he poured cold water on a suggestion by media that the move was a major shift in energy policy, saying Japan will continue to rely on coal power and support the building of newer, more efficient plants.

The Yomiuri reported on Thursday that Japan will close or mothball as many as 100 old coal plants by about 2030, in what Japan’s biggest selling newspaper said was a major turning point for the country on energy.

That sentiment was echoed by some environmental groups, which have long criticized Japan’s strong support for the dirtiest fossil fuel.

“Japan decided in 2018 to phase out inefficient coal power plants, but we did not have any concrete framework, so we will make one,” Kajiyama told a news conference on Friday.

He did not give a number of plants that will be shut and said coal will remain an important power source.

“We will do whatever we can do to cut greenhouse gas emissions, instead of talking about scrapping or not scrapping all coal power plants,” he said.

The ministry will consider new rules, tax incentives and other measures to ensure Japan achieves its goal to lower coal’s share of the country’s power mix to 26% by 2030, from 32% now, Kajiyama said. Industry specialists and academics will start discussions this month.

“While this is a significant step forward ... it is still totally insufficient,” said Kimiko Hirata, International Director of Kiko Network, a non-governmental organization that seeks to end coal use.

Kajiyama also said talks with other ministries on tightening conditions for the export of coal-fired power plant technology are nearly completed.

“We are trying to make things clearer ... toward tightening criteria for our support for exports of coal-fired power plants,” he said.

Reporting by Yuka Obayashi and Ritsuko Shimizu; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick, Shri Navaratnam and Tom Hogue