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Japan Sectors

What is Japanʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

1.5°C aligned targets
Current targets

Power sector in 2030

Japan’s power system is dominated by coal (33%) and natural gas (39%) with 19% coming from renewables and another 9% from nuclear.48 Nuclear energy provided a quarter of power until the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011. It is slowly increasing again after the 2014 total shutdown, but it is unclear whether it will ever fully regain its former role.49 For much of the last three decades renewable share in power generation remained around 10%, and this was almost entirely due to hydroelectricity. However, beginning in 2012, the country saw an accelerated uptake of solar power.16,50

Paris Agreement compatible pathways show a phase-out of unabated coal by around 2030 and unabated gas between 2038-40. This would primarily be achieved through a significant scale-up of renewable power, which could supply 51-82% of Japan’s power by 2030, and close to 100% in 2050.51 A share of at least 60% would need to be achieved in order to avoid reliance on nuclear energy nor fossil fuels with CCS.1

Japan faces unique challenges in decarbonising its power sector. Historically, the country has opted for nuclear power and energy efficiency measures as a means of meeting increasing demand and maintain security of supply. More recently, demand trends have shifted significantly and, on the supply side, nuclear power’s share in generation dropped after the 2011 Fukushima accident.

Issues with security of supply remain, given the country’s isolated location. While the country has limited potential for solar and onshore wind, offshore wind could provide significant power generating capacity.23 The government has identified offshore wind as a key area of focus in its long-term energy planning. At the same time, Japan also sees nuclear and fossil CCS as important contributors to a future power grid.15,19

Towards a fully decarbonised power sector

Under 1.5°C compatible pathways, Japan’s power sector achieves carbon neutrality between 2040 and 2043 by phasing out unabated coal from around 2030 and unabated gas between 2038 and 2040.

Nearly all pathways retain nuclear power in the generation mix.

Some pathways assume a certain level of reliance on carbon dioxide removal. In these pathways fossil fuel generation with CCS commences from the 2030s and accounts for 29-32% of total generation in 2050. In addition to CCS, residual emissions under these pathways are abated with negative emissions technologies, also starting in the 2030s, i.e., bioenergy with CCS which, by 2050, accounts for 1.6-3.2% of total power generation. CCS has yet to been proven an effective means of emissions reduction at scale. Relying on this technology is thus risky.

Japan could achieve a fully decarbonised power system based on renewable energy and storage technologies. The 100% renewable energy pathway modelled here has non-bio renewables share in power generation increasing from 16% (2019 levels) to 81% by 2030 and nearly 100% by 2050.52

In addition to energy efficiency measures, technologies most readily available to Japan to facilitate this transition are solar PV on buildings and offshore wind, paired with geothermal and hydropower.2

1 Climate Action Tracker. 1.5°C-consistent benchmarks for enhancing Japan’s 2030 climate target. Climate Action Tracker.(2021).

2 The Government of Japan. The Long-term Strategy under the Paris Agreement. (2021).

3 Climate Action Tracker. Japan. September 2021 update. Climate Action Tracker. (2021).

4 Climate Transparency. Japan – Climate Transparency Report 2021. (2021).

5 IEA. Gas 2020. (2020).

6 World Bank. State and Trends of Carbon Pricing 2021. (2021) doi:10.1596/978-1-4648-1728-1.

7 Climate Analytics & Renewable Energy Institute. Science Based Coal Phase – Out Timeline for Japan Implications for Policymakers and Investors. (2018).

8 METI. Consideration of the phase-out of inefficient coal and the revision of rules on the use of power transmission lines to enable renewables becoming main power sources. In Japanese. (2020).

9 The Japan Times. METI minister signals a major shift for Japan away from coal and toward renewables. July 3, 2020. (2020).

10 Gray, M., Takamura, Y. & Morisawa, M. Land of the Rising Sun and Offshore Wind. (2019).

11 Arima, J. Reclaiming pragmatism in Japan’s energy policy. East Asia Forum (2021).

12 Deng, Y. Y. et al. Quantifying a realistic, worldwide wind and solar electricity supply. (2015).

13 IEA. World Energy Balances 2019. (2021).

14 Climate Action Tracker. Data & Trends. (2017).

15 The Government of Japan. Green Growth Strategy Through Achieving Carbon Neutrality in 2050. (2020).

16 IEA. Japan 2021 – Energy Policy Review. Int. Energy Agency (2021).

17 Climate Action Tracker. Japan. September 2020 update. Climate Action Tracker. (2020).

18 Government of Japan. Japan’s Nationally Determined Contribution. (2021).

19 METI. Outline of Strategic Energy Plan (6th Strategic Energy Plan). (2021).

20 NHK. Zenbun: Suga shushou shisei hoshin enzetsu [Full text: Prime Minister Suga’s policy speech]. (2021).

21 Schreyer, F. et al. Common but differentiated leadership: strategies and challenges for carbon neutrality by 2050 across industrialized economies. Environ. Res. Lett. 15, 114016 (2020).

22 Shiraki, H., Sugiyama, M., Matsuo, Y., Komiyama, R. & Fujimori, S. The role of renewables in the Japanese power sector : implications from the EMF35 JMIP. Sustain. Sci. (2021) doi:10.1007/s11625-021-00917-y.

23 IEA. Offshore Wind Outlook 2019.(2019).

24 Statistics Bureau of Japan. Statistical Handbook Japan 2021. (2021).

25 IEA. Global EV Outlook 2021. (2021).

26 Kuriyama, A., Tamura, K. & Kuramochi, T. Can Japan enhance its 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction targets?–Assessment of economic and energy-related assumptions in Japan’s NDC. Energy Policy 328–340 (2019).

27 U.S. Energy Information Administration. Country Analysis Executive Summary: Japan. (2020).

28 Kojima, S. & Asakawa, K. Expectations for Carbon Pricing in Japan in the Global Climate Policy Context. in Carbon Pricing in Japan (eds. Arimura, T. H. & Matsumoto, S.) (Springer, 2021). doi:10.1007/978-981-15-6964-7_1.

29 METI. Japan’s 5th Strategic Energy Plan (provisional translation). (2018).

30 Esteban, M., Zhang, Q. & Utama, A. Estimation of the energy storage requirement of a future 100% renewable energy system in Japan. Energy Policy 47, 22–31 (2012).

31 Esteban, M. et al. 100% renewable energy system in Japan: Smoothening and ancillary services. Appl. Energy 224, 698–707 (2018).

32 Cheng, C., Blakers, A., Stocks, M. & Lu, B. 100% renewable energy in Japan. Energy Convers. Manag. 255, 115299 (2022).

33 Kimura, O. Japanese Top Runner Approach for energy efficiency standards. (2010).

34 Inoue, N. & Matsumoto, S. An examination of losses in energy savings after the Japanese Top Runner Program. Energy Policy 124, 312–319 (2019).

35 IEA. Act on the rational use of energy (Energy Efficiency Act). (2017).

36 METI. 2019 – Understanding the current energy situation in Japan (Part 1). (2019).

37 In order to guarantee that the derived emissions still achieve the global temperature goal when aggregated together across all assessed countries we assess the distribution of pathways from the median until the 5th percentile to form the higher and lower bound of the 1.5°C compatible range (60-72% below 2013 levels). Emission values are rounded to integers. In the Climate Action Tracker a slightly different methodological choice is used to define a 1.5°C compatible benchmark, where projections are harmonised on a different historical year and the median of the range of 1.5° compatible pathways is used – 62% reduction from 2013 levels by 2030.

38 While Japan’s emissions intensity and energy intensity of GDP have decreased significantly over the last three decades, this has been due to energy efficiency improvements rather than a reduction in fossil fuel share in TPES.26 Indeed, coal’s share in primary energy grew by over 50% since 1990. Please see the Climate Action Tracker’s Data Portal for further details.

39 The transport and industrial sectors accounted for 38% and 24%, respectively, of oil consumption in 2018. Use in the power sector has declined significantly since 2013.27

40 The 2-3 USD/tCO₂ value refers to Japan’s carbon tax. The country also levies a fuel excise tax and has two regional emissions trading systems, in Japan and Saitama. The current ETS prices are around 5 USD/tCO₂.6 Accounting for all carbon pricing instruments, the average effective rate has been estimated to be around 39 USD/tCO₂.28

41 According to Japan Beyond Coal, as of January 2022 Japan has 51 GW of coal-fired power plants in operation (0.6 GW mothballed) and another 6 GW of capacity under development (the majority of this under construction with a small amount in planning phase).

42 Note that Japan’s recent Green Growth Strategy also has nuclear playing a significant role in a future decarbonised power sector.15

43 Note that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry provides 2030 projections for both total primary energy supply and final energy consumption (350 million kilolitres).

44 Fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage (CCS) are a significant component of TPES in some 1.5°C compatible pathways, particularly after 2030. The median of these pathways has fossil fuels with CCS accounting for 29% of TPES in 2050, greater than the 17% share for unabated fossil fuels.

45 The low energy demand 1.5°C compatible pathway has TPES in 2050 at around 5 EJ. Japan’s energy consumption has been decreasing fairly steadily since reaching a peak in 2005 and recent reporting had projected a further decline in the coming years, both due to demographic changes and efficiency improvements.27,29 Projections from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry have TPES decreasing from 509 million kilolitres of oil equivalent (kl) in 2018 to 489 million kl by 2030.

46 This would translate to a compound annual rate of reduction between 7-10% compared to the rate of reduction of 2.5% seen between 2013 and 2019.

47 The upper value in the range implies negative emissions which could result from the use of carbon dioxide removal technologies such as BECCS. At the 25th percentile, the 1.5°C compatible pathways show that around 44 MtCO₂e/yr of GHG emissions would need to be balanced out by 2050. Although the long-term strategy does not give an exact value for the anticipated level of removals from forest carbon sinks and other carbon dioxide removal technologies in 2050, the document does provide an estimate of net carbon removals in 2019 (45.9 MtCO₂).2 This seems to be in line with the projected 2030 GHG removals stated in the updated NDC (47.7 MtCO₂).18

48 Values are for 2019. Renewables include wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, and biofuels.

49 The government has stated that it will pursue nuclear power options as part of their Green Growth Strategy. Specifically, it will support efforts to develop small module reactors, hydrogen production by high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, and fusion energy. The government aims to commercialise the former two technologies by 2030.15

50 Please see the International Energy Agency’s Japan webpage for details.

51 Some pathways assume much lower renewables shares (as low as a third in 2050) instead relying on fossil and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, starting in the 2020s and reaching as much as 65% of the power sector by 2060. Given the significant costs and lead times required for CCS, it is unclear how such fast deployment could be achieved. The same pathways also all assume a return to nuclear power, reaching shares of 30% and absolute values well above pre-Fukushima levels

52 Other recent studies have also modelled viable pathways to a 100% renewable power sector for Japan and explored the implications for storage, ancillary services, and price.30-32

53 Regression analysis of changes in emissions on changes in the use of various energy sources (liquid fuels, gaseous fuels, electricity) over the period 1990 – 2019 shows that changes in emissions were most highly correlated with changes in liquid fuels (oil) consumption. Changes in emissions were also correlated, albeit less so, with changes in gaseous fuels (natural gas) use. For both of these fuels, the correlation with emissions was found to be positive.

54 Efficiency standards for several electrical home appliances were introduced in 1999 while further standards, including for gas stoves and heaters, were introduced in 2002. These standards were set so that full enactment would occur 4 to 6 years after introduction. Thus, for most household appliances, full enactment of energy efficiency standards took place between 2003 and 2010.33 A recent study has shown that the top runner programme has led to a rebound effect whereby greater household consumption negates the energy efficiency gains.34 This effect is consistent with the rising consumption of electricity in the building sector and may explain the levelling out of emissions intensity levels from 2010 onwards.

55 In 2018, Japan’s industrial sector consumed 116 Mtoe including non-energy use (34 Mtoe). Oil accounted for 43% of the total, with coal and natural gas making up 18% and 10% respectively. Electricity accounted for 25% of consumption and biofuels 3%. The majority of industrial fuel consumption was due to the chemical and petrochemical industries (43% in 2018).16 With regards to GDP, here we use the term secondary industry to refer to mining, manufacturing, and construction, as per the Statistical Handbook of Japan.24 Value is current as of 2019. See table 3.3 therein.

56 Japan’s push for energy efficiency improvements began as a response to the two oil crises of the 1970s, as exemplified by the Energy Efficiency Act enacted in 1979. The Act has been updated with major revisions since then, such as the introduction of the aforementioned Top Runner Program in 1998. The latest revision to the Act occurred in 2018.35

57 The consumption of electricity decreased after by around 20% between 2006 and 2008 due to the Global Financial Crisis and has yet to recover.

58 This average reduction takes into account the significant declines which occurred during the Asian (1997) and Global (2007-08) Financial Crises.

59 The buildings and industry sectors have a greater overall energy demand and thus a greater absolute reliance on imported fossil fuels. This takes into account both direct fuel use and electricity consumption (indirect use). Note that in 2018, Japan’s import dependency for crude oil, LNG, and coal was 99.7%, 97.5%, and 99.3% respectively.36

60 The 5th Strategic Energy Plan put forth a goal of a 50.3 million kilolitre (42.8 Mtoe) reduction in energy demand by 2030. This would be achieved through reductions in the industry, transport, commercial, and residential sectors of 10.42, 16.07, 12.26, and 11.6 million kilolitres respectively.16

61 The other two countries, China and the UK, aim to meet their targets by 2035 and 2030 respectively.

Japanʼs power mix

terawatt-hour per year

SSP1 Low CDR reliance
20192030204020501 0001 500
20192030204020501 0001 500
SSP1 High CDR reliance
20192030204020501 0001 500
Low energy demand
20192030204020501 0001 500
High energy demand - Low CDR reliance
20192030204020501 0001 500
  • Negative emissions technologies via BECCS
  • Unabated fossil
  • Nuclear and/or fossil with CCS
  • Renewables incl. biomass

Japanʼs power sector emissions and carbon intensity


  • Historical emissions
  • SSP1 High CDR reliance
  • SSP1 Low CDR reliance
  • High energy demand - Low CDR reliance
  • Low energy demand
  • 100%RE

1.5°C compatible power sector benchmarks

Carbon intensity, renewable generation share, and fossil fuel generation share from illustrative 1.5°C pathways for Japan

Decarbonised power sector by
Carbon intensity of power
0 to 10
−30 to 0
2040 to 2043
Relative to reference year in %
−106 to −100%
Year of phase-out
Share of unabated coal
Share of unabated gas
8 to 11
2038 to 2040
Share of renewable energy
51 to 82
62 to 93
65 to 99
Share of unabated fossil fuel
14 to 16
0 to 1


Demand shifting towards the power sector

The 1.5°C compatible pathways analysed here tend to show a strong increase in power generation and installed capacities across time compared with a current policy scenario. This is because end-use sectors (such as transport, buildings or industry) are increasingly electrified under 1.5°C compatible pathways, shifting energy demand to the power sector. Globally, the “high energy demand” entails a particularly high degree of renewable energy-based electrification across the various sectors, and sees a considerable increase in renewable energy capacities over time. See the power section for capacities deployment under the various models.

Japanʼs renewable electricity investments

Billion USD / yr


Yearly investment requirements in renewable energy

Across the set of 1.5°C pathways that we have analysed, annual investments in renewable energy excluding BECCS increase in Japan to be on the order of USD 22 to 84 billion by 2030 and 20 to 64 billion by 2040 depending on the scenario considered. The ‘high energy demand, low CDR reliance’ pathway shows a particularly high increase in renewable capacity investments, which could be driven by an increase of electrification of end-use sectors. Other modelled pathways have relatively lower investments in renewables and rely to varying degrees on other technologies and measures such as energy efficiency and negative emissions technologies, of which the later can require high up-front investments.