Japan’s Energy Future

In 2013 Japan consumed 21.4 quads. The EIA estimates that by 2040 their energy consumption will rise slightly, to 22.2 quads. My own projections show their energy consumption actually declining to 19.4 quads.

Although those totals are not very high, one sentence from the EIA’s analysis of Japan’s energy situation explains Japan’s importance quite clearly: “Japan is the world’s largest liquefied natural gas importer, second-largest coal importer, and third-largest net importer of crude oil and oil products.” Japan is almost completely dependent on imported fossil fuels, more so since Fukushima led them to shut down their nuclear power plants.

Japan energy consumption

Like Russia, Japan is undergoing a demographic decline and it’s not clear when that will stop. And, like Russia, Japan’s GDP is pretty much stalled, albeit at a much higher level than Russia.

So the concern for Japan is not about rising energy consumption. It’s a developed country with a stable economy and a declining population. The concern is whether they can transfer to a greener fuel portfolio.

After the Fukushima tragedy, Japan made strong moves in the direction of solar power. Their terrain is not strictly suited for wind–too mountainous, or at least hilly. The average solar insolation is good in Japan, so it is a logical move for them to make. And in fact, in 2013 Japan was the world’s 2nd largest market for solar power in 2013, adding a record 6.9 GW of capacity. 2014 installations are expected to be even larger, potentially up to 11.9 GW.

Sadly, the total of solar installed in Japan was only enough to generate 1.4% of their electricity in 2013.

The EIA expects Japan’s consumption of coal, oil and natural gas to remain about the same as it is now. The extra energy consumption they expect from Japan will be provided by hydroelectric power, rising from 1.7 to 2.3 quads, nuclear (the EIA clearly expects Japan to reactivate their fleet of nuclear power plants), which will add about 0.3 quads, a dramatic rise in the use of solar power, from 6 GW to 27 GW, which will still only produce less than 0.1 quads, with wind and geothermal contributing a fraction.

So although Japan will not be making matters worse in terms of fossil fuel consumption, they will not be doing much if anything to improve conditions. They will still be major consumers of coal, oil and natural gas.


3 responses to “Japan’s Energy Future

  1. Thanks for the link, Fernando. I think we’ll see more stories of this type elsewhere.

  2. Pingback: Our Global Energy Future | 3000 Quads

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