Japan was the world’s fifth-largest energy consumer in 2022, importing almost 90% of its energy needs. Oil, coal and LNG accounted for 85% of Japan’s primary energy mix in 2021 with renewables and nuclear contributing most of the remainder. Oil was the largest source of primary energy in Japan (37.27% in 2021), while coal supplied a little more than a quarter of total energy consumption making Japan the world’s third-largest coal importer behind China and India.
Natural gas – mainly used for electricity generation – accounted for more than 21% of total primary consumption in 2021, all of it imported and equivalent to 20% of the world’s traded LNG volumes. This made Japan the world’s second largest importer (after China).
With a commitment to achieve net zero by 2050, the sixth edition of Japan’s Strategic Energy Plan, published in 2021, sets electricity generation mix targets for 2030 at 20% LNG, 19% coal, 20-22% nuclear and 36-38% renewables. This means more than half the energy used would be from non-fossil sources.
By 2050, it is estimated that 50-60% of Japan’s electricity demand will be met by renewable energy (non-nuclear), 30-40% by nuclear plus thermal power generation including CO2 recovery and approximately 10% by hydrogen and ammonia power generation.
Natural gas, specifically imported LNG, still has a pivotal role to play in the renewable transition. LNG as the lowest emission fossil fuel can help to maintain stable energy generation, reducing dependence on oil and coal while renewable projects are progressively developed and brought onstream. Further reducing the carbon impact of natural gas is a key part of the plan, introducing hydrogen to the feedstock for gas-fired power plants and increasing carbon neutral LNG cargoes. A new industry group started in 2021 to promote carbon-neutral LNG, with the first cargoes already being delivered to Japanese customers.
Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) is crucial to Japan’s net zero ambitions and a long-term roadmap unveiled in late January 2023 contains a target of storing 6-12 million tonnes of CO2 annually in 2030, then increasing by that same amount each year up to a total of 120-240 million tonnes by 2050.