This is the super highway for Japan to achieve renewable energy 100% and swiftly phase out coal power.
～ Environmental Watch TOKYO proposes constructing HVDC transmission networks using submarine cables from the north to south of Japan
(“Ryugu Power Transmission Plan”) ～
October 28, 2020
While we welcome Prime Minister Suga’s recent pledge for Japan to achieve net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, we are concerned about his overreliance on “future innovations,” in particular “carbon recycling.” It indicates perpetuating some kind of fossil fuel energy with carbon based technologies, which would most likely be “clean coal.” When he was the chief cabinet secretary, Mr. Suga frequently made statements that Japan is a country with scarce energy resources and coal is strategically important for minimizing its geo-political risk. However, we believe it is a completely false statement. As a matter of fact, Japan is blessed with a variety of rich renewable energy resources. Japan has huge potential renewable energy resources which could far exceed the total electricity consumption in the nation. Solely by developing wind power generation, the renewable energy supply in Japan would far exceed the total national electricity demand by five (5) times. Japan is able to achieve 100% renewable energy domestically and become free from geo-political risks.
What, then, are the real issues preventing Japan from achieving 100% renewable energy? One is the distant location of renewable energy resources. As indicated below in the overview with blue circles, the areas with huge wind power generation reserves are in the north and the south, distantly located from the large electricity consumption areas which are in the middle of Japan, as indicated below in a red circle. This is exacerbated by different electrical grid frequencies used in Western Japan (i.e. 60 Hz) and in Eastern Japan (i.e. 50 Hz). In other words, this is a technical issue of how efficiently we could transmit renewable energy power generated in distant locations in the north and the south to the large consumption areas in the middle of Japan, and overcome the existing infrastructure barrier.
We believe that constructing new HVDC connections by using submarine cables provides the best solution to this issue. As indicated below with green lines, our proposal is to construct two new HVDC transmission networks from Hokkaido to Kyushu, one on the Pacific coast and the other on the Sea of Japan coast, using DC/AC converters to connect to AC high-voltage transmission lines in each region. As technological matter, our proposal would best solve the distant location issue and the frequency difference issue. The total construction cost would be in the range of approximately USD 47.6 billion to USD 228 billion, based on our calculation, which would include DC/AC converters, switching stations and transformers. If renewable energy power generation in Japan were to reach around 46% by 2030, it would save imported fossil fuel costs of approximately USD 17.1 billion to USD 26.6 billion per year. For technical and financial details of our proposal, please proceed to our website and review our proposal in English.
Can we instead improve the existing national grid to overcome those issues and make Japan achieve renewable energy 100%? The fragmented existing national grid has a huge political issue. Most notably, the national grid is divided into ten (10) blocks, where each incumbent utility manages grid access in its own jurisdiction by way of a separate but affiliated company under the current “separation” rule. For a very long time, the largest obstacle for increasing renewable energy has been the vested interest held by each incumbent utility in the national grid. The incumbent utilities prioritize the operation of their assets and renewable power projects developed afterwards are frequently denied grid access. Currently, new businesses for renewable power generation encounter difficulties in securing grid access.
We believe that operators of HVDC transmission networks must be truly independent from the incumbent utilities under a new fair rule to rapidly increase renewable energy power generation, while the HVDC transmission networks need to be constructed and owned by the nation as part of its core infrastructure. In conclusion, our proposal to construct two HVDC transmission networks from Hokkaido to Kyushu would promote a steady shift to net-zero emission in Japan and significant GHG emission reduction by 2030. It is based on a reliable technology already utilized for long distance transmissions in Europe and China.
Satomi Ushijima, Representative of Environmental Watch TOKYO
Toshihiko Goto, Chairman of HVDC Transmission Project
1-20-6-32 Higashiueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Overview of huge renewable energy resource areas and large consumption areas in Japan.
Green lines indicate the proposed HVDC transmission networks using submarine cables.