The Japanese government is moving ahead with its plans to build up to 45 new coal fired power stations.
The power plants will utilise high energy, low emissions (HELE) technology that use high-quality black coal.
Japan is the largest overseas market for Australian coal producers, taking more than a third of all exports.
Tom O’Sullivan, a Tokyo based energy consultant with Mathyos Global Advisory, said in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, Japan started importing more liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Australia.
But he said the move to more coal fired power was because coal was cheaper than LNG, and the energy security was priority for the government.
“Japan needs to import 95 per cent of all its energy sources,” he said.
“So it’s trying to diversify its fuel sources and it doesn’t want to be too reliant on any one market.”
Japan has ratified the Paris Climate Agreement and committed to a 26 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.
But Mr O’Sullivan said Japan was yet to price carbon emissions.
“Although Japan spent $US36 billion dollars on commercial solar power last year, and is planning much more, there is no carbon price,” he said. “So at this stage there is no incentive to not build coal fired power station, unlike other countries and states that can have a price as high as $US35-40 per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted.”
Mr O’Sullivan said while community and environmental groups had expressed concerns about the construction of a major coal power station, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was firmly behind the plans.
He said the decision would ensure the use of coal in Japan would continue well into the middle of the century.
“These guys [private companies] are not going to go ahead and [put money into] in large capital investments unless they have a 30-year depreciation period,” he said.
“So if they’re building these coal power plants now it is reasonable to expect them to be still on the books by the end of 2050.”
There are a number of different types of HELE power station technologies. In Australia, the CSIRO has been working on different programs to further the use of them.
The Minerals Council of Australia and the Federal Government are on the record saying HELE coal fired power plants produce half of the emissions of traditional plants.
But David Harris, a CSIRO research director in the Low Emissions Technology Department, said it was not as straight forward as that.
31 January 2017