Energy in Japan

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Energy in Japan refers to energy and electricity production, consumption, import and export in Japan. The country's primary energy consumption was 477.6 Mtoe in 2011, a decrease of 5% over the previous year.[1]

The country lacks significant domestic reserves of fossil fuel, except coal, and must import substantial amounts of crude oil, natural gas, and other energy resources, including uranium. Japan relied on oil imports to meet about 84 percent of its energy needs in 2010.[2] Japan was also the first coal importer in 2010, with 187 Mt (about 20% of total world coal import), and the first natural gas importer with 99 bcm (12.1% of world total gas import).[3]

While Japan had previously relied on nuclear power to meet about 30% of its electricity needs, after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster all nuclear reactors have been progressively shut down for safety concerns.[2] Ōi Nuclear Power Plant's reactor No. 3 was eventually restarted on 2 July 2012.[4] However, in September 2013 the plant was shut down in order for Ōi Nuclear Power Plant to undergo safety inspections and pass legal checks in order to reopen.[5] On August 11, 2015 and November 1, 2015 the two reactors at the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant restarted. Following the Fukushima disaster, the general public has vehemently opposed the use of nuclear energy.[6]


GDP versus energy consumption, 1968-2012
Energy in Japan[7]
Capita Prim. energy Production Import Electricity CO2-emission
Million TWh TWh TWh TWh Mt
2004 127.7 6,201 1,125 5,126 1,031 1,215
2007 127.8 5,972 1,052 5,055 1,083 1,236
2008 127.7 5,767 1,031 4,872 1,031 1,151
2009 127.3 5,489 1,091 4,471 997 1,093
2010 127.4 5,778 1,126 4,759 1,070 1,143
2012 127.8 5,367 601 4,897 1,003 1,186
2012R 127.6 5,260 329 5,062 989 1,223
2013 127.3 5,288 325 5,082 998 1,235
Change 2004-10 -0.2% -6.8% 0.0% -7.2% 3.7% -5.9%
Mtoe = 11.63 TWh, Prim. energy includes energy losses that are 2/3 for nuclear power [8]

2012R = CO2 calculation criteria changed, numbers updated


Electricity production in Japan by source.

Japan's rapid industrial growth since the end of World War II doubled the nation's energy consumption every five years into the 1990s. During the 1960–72 period of accelerated growth, energy consumption grew much faster than GNP, doubling Japan's consumption of world energy. By 1976, with only 3% of the world's population, Japan was consuming 6% of global energy supplies.

Compared with other nations, electricity in Japan is relatively expensive,[9] and, since the loss of nuclear power after the earthquake and tsunami disaster at Fukushima, the cost of electricity has risen significantly.[10]


Map of Japan's electricity distribution network, showing incompatible systems between regions.
The Sakuma Frequency Converter Station

In 2012, Japan ranked fifth in the world by electricity production, after the United States, China, European Union, and Russia with 921 TWh produced during that year.[11]

In terms of per capita electricity consumption, the average person in Japan consumed 8,459 kWh in 2004 compared to 14,240 kWh for the average American. In that respect it ranked 18th among the countries of the world. Its per capita electricity consumption increased by 21.8% between 1990 and 2004.[12]

Japan had 282 GW of total installed electricity generating capacity in 2010, the third largest in the world behind the United States and China. However, after the damage by the 2011 earthquake, capacity is estimated to be around 243 GW in mid-2011.[13] It is one of the world's largest users of solar energy, in fourth place behind Germany, Italy, and China. With 53 active nuclear power generating reactor units in 2009, that year Japan ranked third in the world in that respect, after the United States (104 reactors) and France (59).[14] Almost one quarter (24.93%) of its electricity production was from nuclear plants, compared to 76.18% for France and 19.66% for the United States.[15] However, after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, all plants eventually shut down in May 2012 and Ōi Nuclear Power Plant was restarted and operational between June 2012 and September 2013. On the 11th of August 2015[16] and the 1st of November 2015, the two nuclear reactor of the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant were restarted respectively.[17][18][19]

Since the generation disruption caused by the Fukushima disaster, rapid steps have been made to liberalize the electricity supply market.[20][21] One way this was done in Japan is through the feed-in-tariff scheme. This was announced in 2012 as a direct consequence of the Fukushima disaster. The feed-in-tariff scheme encourages utility operators and companies to purchase and invest in renewable energy.[22] The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry set prices for various renewable energy sources to encourage the production and consumption of renewable energy. In April 2016 domestic and small business customers became able to select from over 250 supplier companies competitively selling electricity. Also wholesale electricity trading on the Japan Electric Power Exchange has been encouraged.[23][24]

National grid[edit]

Unlike most other industrial countries, Japan doesn't have a single national grid but instead has separate eastern and western grids. The standard voltage at power outlets is 100 V, but the grids operate at different frequencies: 50 Hz in Eastern Japan and 60 Hz in Western Japan.[25] The grids are connected together by 3 frequency converter stations (Higashi-Shimizu, Shin Shinano and Sakuma), but these can only handle 1 GW.[26] A converter station also exists at Minami-Fukumitsu. The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami resulted in 11 reactors being taken offline with a loss of 9.7GW.[26] The 3 converter stations did not have the capacity to transfer enough power from Japan's western power grid to significantly help the eastern grid.

The two grids were originally developed by separate companies. Tokyo Electric Light Co was established in 1883 which also established electric power in Japan. In 1885 demand had grown enough that TELCO bought generation equipment from AEG of Germany.[26] The same happened in the western parts of Japan with General Electric being the supplier to Osaka Electric Lamp.[26] GE's equipment used the US standard 60 Hz while AEG's equipment used the European standard of 50 Hz.[26]


In Japan, the electricity market is divided up into 10 regulated companies:

Energy sources[edit]

Japan—primary energy use[27]
Fuel 1950 1988 2001[27]
Coal 50% 18.1% 16.8%
Hydro 33% 4.6% 4.0%
Oil 17% 57.3% 50.2%
Natural gas - 10.1% 13.6%
Nuclear - 9.0% 14.4%
Other - 1.3% 1.0%

In 1950 coal supplied half of Japan's energy needs, hydroelectricity one-third, and oil the rest. By 2001 the contribution of oil had increased to 50.2% of the total, with rises also in the use of nuclear power and natural gas. Japan now depends heavily on imported fossil fuels to meet its energy demand.[13]

In the wake of the two oil crises of the 1970s (1973 and 1979), Japan made efforts to diversify energy resources in order to increase security. Japan's domestic oil consumption dropped slightly, from around 5.1 million barrels (810,000 m3) of oil per day in the late 1970s to 4.9 million barrels (780,000 m3) per day in 1990. While the country's use of oil declined, its consumption of nuclear power and Natural gas rose substantially. Several Japanese industries, including electric power companies and steelmakers, switched from petroleum to coal, most of which is imported.

The state stockpile equals about 92 days of consumption and the privately held stockpiles equal another 77 days of consumption for a total of 169 days or 579 million barrels (92,100,000 m3).[28][29] The Japanese SPR is run by the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation.[30]

Nuclear power[edit]

The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the worst nuclear accident in 25 years, displaced 50,000 households after radioactive isotopes were dispersed into the air, soil and sea.[31] Radiation checks led to bans of some shipments of vegetables and fish.[32]

Following Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace speech, the United States helped Japan develop their nuclear power program. When Japan decided to embark on the nuclear power field, it imported technology from the United States and obtained uranium from Canada, France, South Africa, and Australia. The first nuclear reactor was commissioned in 1966, from then to 2010, 54 more nuclear reactors had opened, with total generation capacity of 48,847 MW.[33] The ratio of nuclear power generation to total electricity production increased from 2% in 1973 to around 30% in March 2011.[2] During the 1980s, Japan's nuclear power program was strongly opposed by environmental groups, particularly after the Three Mile Island accident in the United States. In the 2000s, Japan had a few of the modern Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, including some of the first new advanced Generation III reactors. At Rokkasho, Aomori a facility was built to enrich nuclear fuel, deal with nuclear waste, and recycle spent nuclear fuel.

After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami some nuclear reactors were damaged, causing much uncertainty and fear about the release of radioactive material, as well as highlighting the ongoing concerns over seismic design standards (see Nuclear power in Japan §Seismicity).[34] On 5 May 2012 Japan shut down the last nuclear reactor, the first time there has been no nuclear power production since 1970.[35] On 16 June Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda ordered the restart of Ōi nuclear plant's reactors number 3 and 4, saying that people's livelihood needs to be protected.[36] Ōi nuclear plant's reactor No. 3 was restarted on 2 July,[4] and No. 4 began operation on 21 July.[37] However, in September 2013 the Ōi nuclear plant was shut down in order to have extensive safety inspections performed.[5] By late 2015, both of the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant's reactors had reopened and restarted producing nuclear energy. Other nuclear plants, such as the Takahama Nuclear Power Plant, have received permission to reopen, and other nuclear reactors are beginning the process of restarting.[38]

In June 2015, the Japanese government released an energy proposal that includes the revival of nuclear power to account for Japan's energy needs. The proposal calls for an increase of about 20% in nuclear energy by 2030.[2] This reverses a decision by the previous Democratic Party, the government will re-open nuclear plants, aiming for "a realistic and balanced energy structure".

Natural gas[edit]

Because domestic natural gas production is minimal, rising demand is met by greater imports. Japan's main LNG suppliers in 1987 were Indonesia (51.3%), Malaysia (20.4%), Brunei (17.8%), United Arab Emirates (7.3%), and the United States (3.2%).

The new Japanese LNG strategy published in May 2016 envisages the creation of a liquid market and an international LNG hub in Japan. This promises to radically change the traditional JCC (crude oil) based pricing system in Japan, but also potentially in the Pacific Basin as a whole. But the path to hub creation and hub pricing in the early 2020s envisaged by the Strategy will not be straightforward.[39]

Renewable energy[edit]

Carbon dioxide emissions
(thousands of metric tons of CO2)
compared to 1990 level[40]
Year CO2 Change
1990 1,072,420 0%
1991 1,094,350 2.04%
1992 1,106,500 3.18%
1993 1,081,490 0.85%
1994 1,132,560 5.61%
1995 1,138,750 9.19%
1996 1,169,550 9.06%
1997 1,170,120 9.11%
1998 1,130,600 5.43%
1999 1,165,720 8.7%
2000 1,207,980 12.64%
2001 1,191,390 11.09%
2002 1,205,480 12.41%
2003 1,233,640 15.03%
2004 1,259,659 17.46%
2005 1,238,181 15.46%
2006 1,231,298 14.81%
2007 1,251,169 16.67%
2008 1,207,686 12.61%
2009 1,101,134 2.68%

Japan currently produces about 10% of its electricity from renewable sources. The Fourth Strategic Energy Plan set the renewable share goal to be 24% by 2030. In the next 15 years, Japan intends on investing $700 billion into renewable energy.[41] One initiative the Japanese government has implemented in order to boost the amount of renewable energy produced and purchased in Japan is the feed-in tariff scheme. The scheme encourages companies to invest in renewable energy by providing set prices for various types of renewable energy. The initiatives appear to be working, as renewable energy generation capacity now stands at 26.2 GW, compared to 20.9 GW in 2012.[42]


The country's main renewable energy source is hydroelectricity, with an installed capacity of about 27 GW and a production of 69.2 TWh of electricity in 2009.[43] As of September 2011, Japan had 1,198 small hydropower plants with a total capacity of 3,225 MW. The smaller plants accounted for 6.6 percent of Japan's total hydropower capacity. The remaining capacity was filled by large and medium hydropower stations, typically sited at large dams. Cost per kilowatt-hour for power from smaller plants was high at ¥15-100, hindering further development of the energy source.[44]

Geothermal energy[edit]

Of other renewable energy sources, Japan has partially exploited geothermal energy.[45] The country had six geothermal power stations with a combined capacity of 133 megawatts in 1989. By 2011, the country had 18 geothermal plants.[46] Japan has the third largest geothermal reserves in the world, and geothermal energy in particular is being heavily focused on as a source of power following the Fukushima disaster and subsequent shut down of all nuclear reactors. The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry is currently exploring over 40 locations to see if geothermal energy plants would be compatible.[47]

Photovoltaic electricity[edit]

Main article: Solar power in Japan

In addition, although it only makes a minor contribution to the total, Japan was the world's second largest producer of photovoltaic electricity in early 2000s, until overtaken by Germany in 2005, a year in which it had 38% of the world supply compared to Germany's 39%.[48][49] In December 2011, Tohoku Electric Power began operating a solar power plant in Hachinohe, Aomori. The 10,000 panel plant, occupying a 50,000 square meter site, is expected to produce 1.6 million kwh of electricity a year, about the equivalent needed to power 500 households.[50] On 1 July 2012, new tariffs for renewable energy were introduced by the Japanese government. Tariffs, set at ¥42 per kWh over the next 20 years to solar power producers, are among the highest in the world. They are expected to provide incentive for widespread expansion of solar power energy sources in the country.[51][52] With the incentives in place after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan has added 1,394 MW of renewable energy in 2012. One third of the renewable energy is solar energy, with production increasing for additional solar installations in 2013.[53] Tariffs are expected to increase Japan's share of renewable energy to 20% by 2020. Japan's total solar capacity was 7.4GW at the end of 2012. A gigawatt can supply power to an estimated 250,000 homes.[54]

Wind energy[edit]

Main article: Wind power in Japan

Japan had 1,807 wind turbines with a total capacity of 2440 MW as of September 2011. Lack of locations with constant wind, environmental restrictions, and emphasis by power utilities on fossil and nuclear power hinders the employment of more wind power in the country.[55] However, it has been estimated that Japan has the potential for 144 GW for onshore wind and 608 GW of offshore wind capacity.[56]

Waste and biomass energy[edit]

As of September 2011, Japan had 190 generators attached to municipal waste units and 70 independent plants using biomass fuel to produce energy. In addition, 14 other generators were used to burn both coal and biomass fuel. In 2008, Japan produced 322 million tons of biomass fuel and converted 76% of it into energy.[57]

Ocean energy[edit]

In 2012, the government announced plans to build experimental tidal power and wave power plants in coastal areas. Construction on the projects, the locations for which have not been determined, would begin in 2013.[58]

Carbon emissions[edit]

CO2 emission per capita per year by country, 2004 data

In 2014 Japan was the 6th largest producer of carbon emissions. In 2013 Japan ranked 28 in the list of countries by carbon dioxide emissions per capita.

In 2007, the BBC reported that Japan was having difficulty in meeting its 6% reduction target under the Kyoto Protocol partly because Japanese businesses were already very energy efficient.[59] Despite this, in May 2007, the former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that world emissions should be reduced by 50% by 2050. He expected Japan to play a leading role in such an effort. "We must create a new framework which moves beyond the Kyoto Protocol, in which the entire world will participate in emissions reduction," Abe said.[59]

However, since the events of the Tohoku Earthquake, carbon emissions from energy production have increased to near record levels, with 1227Mt released from energy production as opposed to the Kyoto Protocol target of 1136Mt (8% reduction from 1235Mt), just a 0.6% decrease in energy production emissions.[60] The increased use of gas and coal to make up for lost nuclear capacity increased CO2 production by over 3% despite an electrical demand drop of nearly 15%.

See also[edit]


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  60. ^

External links[edit]