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Policies to improve energy and environmental security, resilience, and reliability (I/V): a case study on Japan

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By Venera N. Anderson

· 4 min read

This is the first part of a five-part research paper on improving energy and environmental security, resiliency, and reliability situations in Japan. You can find part two here, part three here, part four here, and part five here.

Introduction to the research issue

This research paper examines Japanese energy and environmental security, resilience, and reliability situations and presents the best policy improvement options.

The world's third-largest economy faces energy and environmental issues. The Japanese energy security environment is vulnerable compared to the other Group of Seven (G7) countries. For example, in 2022, its primary energy self-sufficiency ratio accounted for 11% versus that of Canada (179%), the United States (106%), and the United Kingdom (75%). The revised FY2021 ratio is 13.3%, showing growth since 2011 when the FY2010 ratio was 20.2% (METI, 2022a; 2022b; 2023). The scarcity of domestic fossil fuels underpins this low self-sufficiency ratio. Japan has many other energy resources but does not use them to their full potential (solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, and wave). For instance, in 2022, Japan, the fifth-largest global oil consumer, depended on imports for 97% of its primary energy supply, exposing itself to the high international fossil fuel price volatility amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Due to a lack of global oil or natural gas pipelines, Japan relied on tanker and liquefied natural gas (LNG) carrier shipments of crude oil and LNG to meet its demand. In 2021, Japan was the world's fifth-highest energy consumer. Japan's dependence on fossil fuels is still high, even though its consumption has been declining. For instance, fossil fuels' share of electricity generation (Appendix A, Figure 1) decreased from 89% in 2012 to 72% in 2021. The primary sources replacing fossil fuels in Japan's generation mix have been nuclear and non-hydro renewables, specifically solar. Moreover, Japanese electricity demand is projected to lessen due to the anticipated energy efficiency improvements and sizable aging population decline (IEA, 2021; EIA; Shiraishi et al.; VK, 2023). 

Second, Japanese energy resilience issues, exacerbated by natural disasters, exist due to the poorly interconnected split electricity system. The 2020's legislation intends to strengthen the electricity sector's resilience by promoting distributed grids and the partnership plans’ requirement for transmission and distribution operators for rapid disaster response. Third, although the country had a relatively high level of energy reliability, its recent situation worsened due to typhoons and earthquake-caused long and large-scale power outages. The continued integration of variable renewable energy and future climate change might further affect Japanese energy reliability and resilience (IEA, 2021).

The impacts of climate change

Japan must also consider evolving environmental security, resilience, and reliability situations. Like the rest of the world, Japan grapples with the effects of global climate change, which continues to affect its food security, and the ecosystems’ resilience and reliability (JMS, 2022; Sekiyama, 2020). Water security is also relevant since a quarter of the Japanese population will live in water-scarce areas between 2020 and 2030 (WDL, 2023). The presented issues are crucial in the context of the current energy transition, which strives to achieve carbon neutrality amid the challenges, such as the need for energy security, macroeconomic impacts, the new North-South divide, and the global competition for critical minerals. The new North-South divide is defined as “a sharpening difference between developed [such as Japan] and developing countries on how the transition should proceed” (Yergin, 2022, p. 11). 

Structure of the paper

This paper is organized into six main sections. After an introduction in Section 1, Section 2 presents the literature review related to the research problem. Section 3 discusses four separate policy sectoral proposals applicable to Japan. Section 4 describes costs, benefits, timeframes, possible unintended consequences, and implementation pathways for each policy option. Section 5 summarizes the research, analysis, and findings. It also presents the best nexus-integrated policy options with caveats to enhance energy and environmental security, resilience, and reliability situations in Japan. It also demonstrates the difference between the analyses and options based on various essential entities involved and their effects on Japanese policies and outcomes. Section 6 concludes and emphasizes the importance of the author’s developed unique concept of nexus-integrated policies. Part two of this series article will provide the literature review related to the research problem.

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About the author

Dr. Venera N. Anderson is a global strategy advisor and published author on sustainability and climate issues. She creates and implements innovative solutions that address the world’s most pressing issues, such as climate change, economic development, and humanitarian challenges. She is a member of the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council. Venera is a co-author of the "Touching Hydrogen Future" book (2nd edition). She is also an International Expert at Women in Green Hydrogen, a global network which strives to increase the visibility and amplify the voices of women working in the green hydrogen sector, and a Speaker at Tech Up for Women and the Wall Street Green Summit about her vision for coastal U.S. green hydrogen hubs.

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