Japan, S. Korea plan new coal-fired plants despite global climate deal
By Paul Homewood
News from the specialist China Coal Resource website:
Less than a week since signing the global climate deal in Paris, Japan and South Korea are pressing ahead with plans to open scores of new coal-fired power plants, casting doubt on the strength of their commitment to cutting CO2 emissions, Reuter reported.
Even as many of the world’s rich nations seek to phase out the use of coal, Asia’s two most developed economies are burning more than ever and plan to add at least 60 new coal-fired power plants over the next 10 years.
South Korea did scrap plans for four coal-fired power plants as part of its pledge to the Paris summit, but 20 new plants are still planned by 2021.
In Japan, 41 new coal-fired power plants are planned over the next decade, and taxes favor imports of coal over cleaner-burning natural gas.
Officials at both countries’ energy ministries said those plans were unchanged.
Japan, in particular, has been criticized for its lack of ambition – its 18% target for emissions cuts from 1990 to 2030 is less than half of Europe’s – and questions have been raised about its ability to deliver, since the target relies on atomic energy, which is very unpopular after the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant.
Japan’s Electric Power Development Co Ltd, the country’s top thermal coal user, said the Paris deal would have no impact on its coal plans. "Our stance on new coal plants is unchanged," a spokesman said, adding that emissions would be cut as ageing coal plants were replaced by new ones using the latest technology.
In South Korea, tax on imported coal for power generation was raised in July, but is still only just over a third of the import tax on natural gas.
Coal-fired power plants there currently run at about 80% of capacity, compared with 35-40% for gas plants, according to calculations based on data from Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO), the country’s largest power utility.
Analysts say Japan and South Korea could reduce carbon emissions by much more than they pledged in Paris.
"The focus in Asia has been more on China and India, so we haven’t seen much attempt to put pressure on Japan and South Korea yet. But I imagine pressure will start to increase," said senior analyst Georgina Hayden at BMI Research, a unit of ratings agency Fitch Group.
To be sure, China uses vastly more coal and has nearly a thousand more such plants in various stages of planning and construction.
But it has also recently reformed its gas price system to encourage a switch away from coal.
"We haven’t seen that kind of commitment from Japan or South Korea yet," said BMI’s Hayden.