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Interview

Japan minister: Renewable energy to be 'major power source'

Kajiyama vows to increase offshore wind and fund battery development

Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama speaks to Nikkei on Oct. 13 in Tokyo. He vowed to make renewable energy a major part of the energy mix. (Photo by Junichi Sugihara)

TOKYO -- Hiroshi Kajiyama, Japan's economy minister, said he wants to make renewable energy a "major power source" for the country and give it "a higher share" of electricity generated, in an interview with Nikkei Asia on Tuesday.

Kajiyama said he will "raise the share [of renewable energy] without setting an upper limit."

The government currently aims to meet 22% to 24% of Japan's electricity needs with renewables by fiscal 2030, compared with 17% in fiscal 2018. Japan includes hydropower in the renewable energy category but most of the growth is expected to come from wind and solar power.

The government will start discussions Tuesday aimed at laying out new policy goals and drafting a strategic energy plan to be announced next year.

In order to foster the development of renewable energy, Kajiyama mentioned the possibility of devoting a larger slice of the budget to research on advanced battery storage technology and offshore wind power, which has great potential in Japan as an archipelago.

He told Nikkei the government plans to have 10,000 megawatts of offshore wind generating capacity by 2030.

The variability and higher cost of wind and solar power are major challenges for their development in Japan. To address these issues, Kajiyama said the government will consider financially supporting research and development of battery storage technology and solar panels.

For companies, "it is important to enhance the predictability" of the government's energy policy, Kajiyama added. He pledged to clarify the government's policy goals so the electric power industry can make investment decisions on power plants.

Regarding nuclear energy, Kajiyama said he would "do his best in the next 10 years" to restart Japan's nuclear power plants. Many of these plants have been undergoing safety inspections since the 2011 Fukushima earthquake. Kajiyama was cautious about the idea of building new nuclear plants but said nuclear energy is "still necessary."

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