Japanese imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) have remained at record levels during 2014 as its entire fleet of nuclear power plants remains offline, according to recent data from the Japanese government.
Japan’s reliance on fossil fuels for power generation—particularly LNG—jumped substantially after the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which led to a nationwide nuclear shutdown as the government reassessed its approach to nuclear safety and commitment to nuclear power as a key component of its power mix. The government in April dropped earlier plans to abandon nuclear power altogether, but three years later, all 48 of Japan’s reactors remain offline.
In September, the nation’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority approved plans to redesign two reactors at the Sendai plant to meet revised safety regulations, but restarts are still a ways off. Public opposition to nuclear also remains high.
High oil prices have forced a shift away from fuel oil generation and toward coal and LNG. Japan has started up 2.5 GW of new gas-fired capacity this year, according to the Energy Information Administration. Japan’s Ministry of Finance reported that LNG exports have averaged 11.85 billion cubic feet per day through August of this year. Coal imports have also hit a record: 40 million tons through the same period. Renewable generation has surged as well, though it remains a small part of the overall mix.
—Thomas W. Overton is a POWER associate editor.