Published on July 27th, 2018 | by Joshua S Hill0
Turning Its Back On Nuclear, TEPCO Plans 7 Gigawatts Of Renewable Energy
July 27th, 2018 by Joshua S Hill
The Tokyo Electric Power Company, better known as TEPCO, announced this week that it intends to pursue the development of up to 6 to 7 gigawatts (GW) worth of renewable energy worth tens of billions of dollars in a move away from its traditional reliance on nuclear energy.
Speaking to Nikkei this week, TEPCO’s president Tomoaki Kobayakawa announced his company will look to develop 6 to 7 GW of renewable energy across Japan and overseas in a move expected to yield 100 billion yen ($8.98 billion) in profit.
“We must gain a competitive advantage in renewable energy,” said President Tomoaki Kobayakawa, a big hill to climb considering that TEPCO currently only boasts 15% renewable energy in its portfolio.
TEPCO won’t be going it alone, however, with Kobayakawa explaining that “This is not a case where one company does everything,” adding that TEPCO would look to partner with international renewable energy companies and investors to finance the transition to renewables to the tune of trillions of yen.
Unsurprisingly, TEPCO has flagged offshore wind power as its primary focus, given not only its isolation as an island nation but also its proximity to the newest big player on the block, Taiwan. Taiwan currently has a pipeline of around 5 GW and the beginnings of the infrastructure and manufacturing base from which the entire region is likely to benefit. Whether Japan will look to rival Taiwan’s growing dominance in the region and make a play at establishing itself as another regional hub for offshore wind development, or whether it sits back and relies on Taiwan’s existing capability is unclear at this point.
One area which Japan might be able to beat Taiwan to the punch is the use of floating offshore wind power, as Kobayakawa said he would like to “take up the challenge” of building floating offshore wind. Though Japan is ideally suited to utilize offshore wind power, it would face a challenge if it followed a traditional approach using fixed-foundation wind farms, given its unusually deep coastal waters and the drastic increase in spending such conditions require. Floating wind turbines, which are beginning to be tested in Scotland, could be a perfect solution and a way to scale up a new technology and give Japan a control over a new market.
The company is also considering the development of new hydroelectric projects, potentially working in Southeast Asia, considering that there are few places in an already-cramped Japan that could support a new hydropower facility. This, along with at-home offshore wind and other renewable energy projects, as well as the development of renewable energy projects around Asia and even into Europe, will serve as the three prongs of TEPCO’s new renewable energy vision.
TEPCO’s move towards renewable energy is not a big shock, though maybe it could be described more as “delayed”. Ever since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011, Japan’s appetite for nuclear power has waned considerably, with political and popular opinion sliding further and further away from what continues to be Japan’s primary form of power generation.
For TEPCO particularly, there is an immediate need to find alternatives, considering that they have kept their nuclear reactors offline ever since early 2011 — despite receiving approval to restart reactors 6 and 7 at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture last year.