- Japan plans to stop power firms building coal-fuelled plants that are inefficient and dirty as it manages the competing demands of cutting greenhouse gas emissions while stepping up use of the fuel after the Fukushima disaster, officials said.
The government has come under fierce criticism from environmentalists and more subtle pressure from allies over its support for coal, the use of which has surged to record levels after the shutdown of reactors.
The government aims to have coal account for 26 percent of the electricity mix by 2030. After Fukushima it went up to nearly a third, against 24 percent before the meltdowns.
"The energy mix is based on the assumption that the average fuel-efficiency of coal-fired plants across the country will be equivalent to the level of ultra-super-critical plants, the most efficient," said an official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).
"To make it happen, we must tighten up the regulations," he said, declining to be named as an official announcement has not been made.
Ultra-super-critical plants get the most energy from coal, although more efficient technologies are emerging.
The government is opening up the $65 billion retail electricity market to full competition from next April. That has added to a surge in investment in coal, seen as one of the cheapest fuels, with plans to build about 40 more coal stations in the next decade.
Japan's coal-fired plants have total capacity of around 46 gigawatts. About half of them are old and relatively inefficient, according to the ministry.
"We want to ensure highly efficient technology is put in place in all new coal-fired plants including small ones, which tend to be less efficient than large ones," the official said.
Japan also plans to adopt more advanced technologies such as integrated gasification combined cycle, which can cut emissions by 20 percent, and bring them into commercial operation by 2020, said METI's deputy director, Yuichi Takagi.
"This is in line with our energy mix and climate goals," Takagi said. Japan aims to cut CO2 emissions by 26 percent from 2013 levels by 2030.
The environment ministry recently pushed back on the growing use of coal to generate power by submitting a rare objection to plans for a new 1.2 gigawatt coal-fired plant.
Ultimately, though, the best way to cut emissions is to stop using the fuel, Sir David King, Britain's climate representative, said on Wednesday during a visit to Tokyo, where he is also talking to government officials.
"We have to leave coal in the ground," King told a news conference.