On June 4, the Japanese Cabinet approved the FY20 Annual Report on Energy—Japan’s “Energy White Paper 2021.” Taking up the circumstances surrounding energy and major measures, it addressed three major issues:
・Progress in Fukushima reconstruction.
・Challenges and activities toward achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
・Changes in energy security.
In recent times, Japan’s energy white papers have opened with a reference to progress toward Fukushima reconstruction. Now that one decade has elapsed since the giant earthquake of March 11, 2011, and the subsequent accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs), the most recent white paper said that the end of FY20 (i.e., March 2021) would be recognized as a “turning point.”
It then reported on progress in activities toward the decommissioning and reconstruction of Fukushima, reiterating that recovery from the nuclear disaster was the origin of the implementation of energy policy.
During FY20 (April 2020 to March 2021), the Japanese government announced its green growth strategy in December in response to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s declaration two months earlier aiming at carbon neutrality by 2050. It described action plans for 14 key areas and industries, as follows:
- Offshore wind power
- Fuel ammonia
- Nuclear power
- Automobiles and storage batteries
- Marine vessels
- Foods, agriculture, forestry and fisheries
- Semiconductors and information technology
- Physical distribution, flows of people, and civil engineering infrastructure
- Carbon recycling
- Housing, structures, and next-generation solar panels
- Resource recycling
The white paper compared the industrial and technological competitiveness of seven countries and one regions—Japan, the United States, China, South Korea, Taiwan, the UK, Germany and France—in each of the above areas and industries. Their competitiveness was evaluated on the basis of total patent assets for each area, quantified for the past ten years according to such data as the numbers of patent applications and scores. They were then ranked and presented in a table.
As shown, Japan ranks first in the areas of (1) hydrogen, (2) automobiles and storage batteries, (3) semiconductors and information technology, and (4) foods, agriculture, forestry and fisheries. In nuclear power, however, Japan ranks fourth, with an indicator raw score of 66,092, trailing the United States (339,254), China (220,847) and UK (66,596).
In that picture, Japan was deemed highly competitive in the field of manufacturing nuclear-related equipment and components. In next-generation innovative reactors and nuclear fusion, however, the United States and China were considered the most competitive, based on the numbers of patent applications and scores. SMRs and high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs) were also included in the evaluation.
On energy security, the white paper compared the countries based on nine indicators, including energy self-sufficiency, ensuring stable supplies of fossil fuels, storage battery capabilities, and cybersecurity countermeasures.
It also described such matters as the causes of Japan’s tight supply and demand situation for electricity last winter and the measures taken thereafter, as well as how a major blackout occurred in California in August 2020, extracting lessons from each situation.