Author: Masaharu Tsubokura
Editors: Akihiko Ozaki M.D., Yuki Senoo
171. International cooperation to reduce the greenhouse gas effect
While Japan is one of the largest consumers of primary energy in the world, our country significantly lacks resources such as oil and natural gas and therefore has a low energy self-sufficiency rate. As we discussed in the previous article, there is no single method of power generation that has only strengths or weaknesses. For this reason, the process of determining the source of energy utilized in Japan includes various considerations related to current energy circumstances. A reduction of the greenhouse gas effect is one of the crucial factors we have to take into consideration.
Global climate changes, such as global warming, sea level elevation, and changing precipitation patterns, have significant impacts on human beings as a whole. In response, countries all over the world are cooperating to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide.
International agreements on greenhouse gas emissions from 2020 onwards were made at a Paris meeting held in 2015, which is called the Paris Agreement. Ever since then, many countries, including Japan, have been working towards a common goal to reduce CO2 emissions that was set at the Paris Agreement.
On the other hand, Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the Fukushima disaster. In 2013, the country recorded its highest greenhouse gas emissions at 1.3 billion tons. Although the total amount has decreased since 2014, greenhouse gas emissions produced by the generation of electricity in 2015 increased by approximately 15% compared to emissions before the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011.
172. The price of electricity is currently on a downward trend
The price of electricity fluctuates depending on various factors. The average electric bill in Japanese households has increased sharply due to the effects of the two oil shocks that occurred in the 1970s and in 1985, with the price of electricity being 28.9 JPY per kilowatt-hour ( ¥the amount of electric power consumed using a 1,000-watt appliance for one hour) in 1985. That price was double the rate from before the oil shock occurred. After that event, the price of electricity gradually decreased. As you may know, although the price of electricity was over 20 JPY per kilowatt-hour before the Fukushima disaster, the price rose again to 25.5 JPY per kilowatt-hour in 2014 following the disaster.
After the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, the shale revolution took place, which enabled extraction of oil and natural gas from places that used to be difficult to mine. This further lowered the price of crude oil. Although current electricity prices are still about 10% higher than those from before the earthquake, they are on a downward trend due to the effect of the shale revolution.
To summarize, despite steadily increasing energy consumption since the postwar period, due to the country’s poor resource conditions, the energy self-sufficiency rate in Japan is relatively low compared to that of other countries. In addition to this, Japan is also facing many challenges, including rising electricity costs after the earthquake and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as determined in the international agreement.
The Japanese version of the manuscript was originally published in Fukushima Minyu, a local newspaper in Fukushima prefecture, Japan, 22th and 29th April 2018 was reproduced for MRIC Global under the author's permission.