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Editorial: Japan must make concerted push to switch to green energy economy

An expert committee at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry recently finalized long-term energy plan recommendations through the year 2050. Solar, wind and other renewables were given pride of place as "main power sources," and we commend the committee for its proactive attitude to expanding green energy, a sector in which Japan lags behind countries in Europe and elsewhere.

However, there are many obstacles that must be overcome to realize this renewable energy future. To make sure this goal does not end up a mere flight of fancy, we call on the government to develop tactics that will get Japan steadily to its green energy goals.

The long-term energy plan recommendations were drawn up with the Paris Agreement limiting global warming in mind, and form the compass needle by which Japan's energy policy is plotted. Indeed, the government is looking to finalize Japan's revised basic energy plan as early as this summer, and it will reflect the committee's ideas.

The ultimate goal is for Japan to free itself entirely from carbon-based energy. That means ending dependence on fossil fuels -- oil, coal, and natural gas. Expansion of renewable energy plays the leading role in accomplishing this.

However, there are difficulties with renewables, including instability due to changes in the weather, high costs, and patching green energy generation sources into the electricity distribution network. That is likely why the committee recommendations set the target ratio of Japan's energy mix made up of renewables at 22 to 24 percent in 2030 -- the same as it is under the current basic energy plan.

For the sake of the long-term strategy and overcoming the aforementioned obstacles, the recommendations call for a plan to concentrate efforts on developing essential technologies such as storage batteries, hydrogen fuel systems, and smart electricity distribution systems. This idea is based on the belief that Japan cannot catch up with European countries and China if it uses existing technologies, and that it is necessary to put more efforts into developing next-generation technologies.

Creating new technology always takes time and money. Thus, the government must lay out a truly concrete path to get the work done. To cultivate renewables as the "main energy source," we call on Japan to leverage knowhow from the private and public sectors to make the best of existing high-efficiency electricity distribution technologies and the like, and to secure power sources that can compensate for the instability inherent in green energy generation.

One aspect of the recommendations is the positioning of nuclear power. The long-term energy strategy calls for atomic energy to be "reduced as much as possible," but also retains it as one option to help Japan free itself of fossil fuels. It would be difficult for the government to earn the public's understanding for retaining nuclear power by dressing it up as a just policy to wean the country off carbon.

Japan must end its dependency on nuclear power as quickly as possible. Making renewables this country's main energy source is a must for that to happen.

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