8GW by 2030 for Japan, says environment minister

Ambitious target, but uncertainty about government commitment

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Japan’s environment minister has unveiled a ‘green growth’ plan that includes a goal of reaching 8GW in offshore wind capacity by 2030. Currently, the country has just 30-odd megawatts (MW) of offshore wind capacity.

Minister Goshi Hosono’s announcement forms part of the Japanese government’s new green growth initiative, which includes a focus on sustainable energy. The sustainable energy plan also foresees growth in biothermal, biomass and ocean energy electricity generation.

In order to support a shift toward sustainable energy, the environment ministry plans to double the relevant budget to approximately 90bn yen ($1.1bn) for the year beginning 1 April 2013.

"Sustainable energy is the greatest prerequisite for reducing nuclear power," Hosono has been quoted as saying by Japanese finance newspaper, Nihon Keizai Shinbun.

However, Hosono’s plan is short on detail, and industry figures are skeptical. "It is gratifying that the minister is promoting such an ambitious project. But it is difficult to know in what form it can be achieved," managing director of consultancy Garrad Hasan Japan, Yukinobu Uchida, told Windpower Offshore.

A lack of confidence in the 8GW offshore wind target is driven, in large part, by the fact that it is Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) that has traditionally taken the lead on wind energy and which has legal jurisdiction over energy policy. Japanese press reports about the 8GW by 2030 ambition make no reference to any collaboration on wind energy by the two ministries.

"Japanese ministries are vertically integrated, and without signs of a horizontal link between the two ministries it is difficult to say what might happen," explained Uchida.

He adds that an Environment Ministry-funded floating offshore wind project in the Goto Islands is focused on environmental rather than energy concerns.

A larger floating demonstration project is planned for waters about 20km off the Fukushima coast, funded by METI. Meanwhile, a Japanese industry consortium led by Hitachi Zosen Corporation has announced plans to build 300MW in offshore wind capacity.

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