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Japan Utilities Emit Record CO2 After Fukushima Disaster

Japanese Utilities Emit Record Carbon After Fukushima Disaster
Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (Tepco) Kawasaki Thermal Power Plant in Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. Regional power companies produced about 439 million tons of CO2 for the year, up 17 percent from 374 million tons in the year ended in March 2011, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data provided by the companies. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Tokyo Electric Power Co. and nine other Japanese power companies emitted a record amount of carbon dioxide in the year ended March 31 as the Fukushima Dai-Ichi disaster spurred a surge in crude and fuel-oil consumption.

The regional power companies produced about 439 million tons of CO2 for the year, up 17 percent from 374 million tons in the year ended in March 2011, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data provided by the companies. Kansai Electric Power Co., the Japanese utility that relied most on nuclear power, discharged 65.7 million tons, a 40 percent increase in CO2 emissions.

Japan was forced to find alternative to nuclear power, which produces virtually no greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change, after last year’s earthquake and tsunami caused the worst radioactive contamination since Chernobyl in the 1980s. With all but two of the country’s 50 nuclear reactors offline and no date set to restart them, Japan is using record amounts of liquefied natural gas and sharply higher levels of fuel oil and crude to generate power.

The increased use of fossil fuels, especially fuel oil and crude, is making it harder for Japan to meet its target of a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by the end of the decade. Japan has pledged to reduce carbon dioxide by an average 6 percent from 2008 through 2012 from 1990 levels under the Kyoto Protocol, which limits releases by industrial countries.

The 10 regional utilities used about 30 million tons of carbon credits to offset their emissions in the last fiscal year, compared with 57 million tons a year earlier, according to calculations based on the companies’ data.

Starting From Scratch

“Objectively speaking, there is no doubt that it is more difficult to achieve the 25 percent reduction goal than before,” Naomi Hirose, president of the utility known as Tepco, said in a June interview before he was officially approved as the new chief. Japan’s emission target was based on the premise that the country would build more reactors, Hirose said.

The Japanese government decided to start from scratch on its long-term energy policy after the magnitude-9 quake and tsunami caused meltdowns and radiation leaks at Tepco’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant. The government previously called for increasing the ratio of electricity supply from nuclear power to 45 percent from 26 percent by 2030.

Japan is considering three options for nuclear energy in 2030: zero percent, 15 percent and as much as 25 percent of the country’s total electricity. About 70 percent of people at 11 hearings hosted by the government supported the zero-nuclear option, the Asahi newspaper reported Aug. 4.

Combined Losses

Under the zero-nuclear scenario, Japan’s CO2 emissions reduction from 1990 may be as little as 16 percent, a government panel said in a June 29 report. The country can achieve a 23 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 without nuclear power if Japan gets 35 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, up from 10 percent now, and implements “strict regulations in wide areas,” and bans the sale of products that aren’t energy efficient, the panel said.

While manufacturers of solar panels, wind turbines and other renewable power equipment would benefit from the expansion of clean energy, power companies, which have posted combined losses of 3.6 trillion yen since the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, may not be able to afford enough carbon credits to help the country meet the CO2 reduction target.

Tepco, in particular, can’t keep buying carbon credits as the utility faces costs for compensating radiation victims, decommissioning and clean-up costs stemming from the Fukushima disaster, Hirose said.

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