Strengthening Japan’s offshore wind targets is key to matching the G7 clean power ambitions

  • Tokyo

  • 18 May 2023

A new report by global energy think tank Ember reveals that offshore wind is the biggest gap to unlock a decarbonised power sector for Japan. Based on current plans, Japan will represent just 4% of the total 150 GW of offshore wind that the G7 announced they will collectively build by 2030.

“Japan is losing the race to decarbonised electricity,” said Ember’s head of data insights, Dave Jones. “There is a huge gap in ambition on offshore wind between Japan and the rest of the G7.”

Japan’s electricity transition is lagging behind the Group of Seven (G7) nations as it has the lowest clean power share of any G7 country (29%), and the highest coal share (33%), Ember’s data analysis shows. As a result, Japan has the most carbon-intensive electricity in the G7.

Japan could achieve up to 90% decarbonised electricity by 2035 with enough deployment of renewables, according to pathways from recent reports such as by the Lawrence Berkeley Lab. However, the scenario is only achievable if Japan could harness the game-changing opportunity of offshore wind and ramp-up its clean power ambitions, Ember finds. 

According to Ember’s research, offshore wind is the biggest gap between the projected pathways and Japan’s current electricity plans. In 2022, wind generated just 1% of the country’s electricity. For the rest of the G7, wind power generated 11% of the total electricity production. In the United States, wind generated 10% of electricity and in the United Kingdom it was around 25% in 2022. 

Currently, Japan plans to award contracts to 10 GW prior to 2030, but it has given no expectation that more than 5.7 GW will be operational by then. This means, Japan’s operational offshore wind is projected to be just 4% of the total 150 GW that the G7 announced they plan to build by 2030. It is also only a little over 1% of the 392 GW theoretical potential of offshore wind power in the country. Japan is also discussing how much capacity should be contracted by 2040: it could be as little as 30 GW or as much as 45 GW.

The G7’s announcement that it will build 150 GW of offshore wind highlights just how far Japan has fallen behind on the electricity transition. If Japan showed the same confidence in offshore wind that other G7 countries currently do, then Japan would be able to align with the G7 premise of 2035 decarbonised electricity. Wind and solar are the biggest and best tools in the toolbox for reducing emissions this decade, and the world is looking at the G7 to show leadership for how quickly this transition can happen.

Dave Jones Head of Data Insights, Ember