The unique challenges of island life
As a major island economy, Japan needs to be as self-sufficient as possible in meeting its energy needs. But it also faces the same challenges that confront urban industrialised societies around the world, including overcrowded cities and congested highways. Until recently, nuclear energy played a big role in Japan’s energy supply. But following the Fukushima incident in 2011 and the country’s subsequent shutdown of nuclear power stations, it quickly became clear that a new energy strategy was needed to balance economic growth with environmental and safety concerns.
Building a path to gas and renewable energy
Since Fukushima, natural gas and oil-fired power plants have sprung up to fill the gap left by nuclear power, as too have renewable energy sources like wind and solar. In fact, the country has set a goal for 22-24% of its power to be generated by renewables by 2030, up from 11% in 2013. Natural gas-fired power plants are perfectly suited to a growth in renewables, as they can be fired up relatively quickly, which is perfect for times when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.
This shift in the energy mix can be particularly effective in cities, working alongside a distributed natural gas-powered combined heat and power (CHP) system. A distributed energy system is where energy production is spread out and embedded in the urban setting where most of the power is used, as against having one national grid power system. A distributed CHP energy system also has substantial efficiency gains such as reduced transmission losses, waste heat recycling, lower emissions and increased resilience to extreme weather events like earthquakes and tsunamis. Integrating power generation with other city systems - such as water, heating, cooling, sewerage and waste – is not only the key to the resilience and sustainability of Japan’s cities, but can apply to other “smart cities” around the world as well.
Shell is proud to play a part in Japan’s energy transition, in our role as one of Japan's largest suppliers of liquefied natural gas.