Fears of a Japanese Coal Rush Now a Reality: Utility Companies Announce Electricity Supply Plans

At the end of March, 2014, Japanese utility companies started to announce their fiscal 2014 energy supply plans. It has become increasingly clear that these companies are following in the footsteps of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) by opening up bids for new thermal power plants and thus clearing the way for a coal rush.
TEPCO first opened bidding for 2600 MW and it was announced on July 2013 that Chubu Electric Power Company, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation and Electric Power Development (J-POWER) won the bid to supply electricity. As a result, 2 new companies, one by Chubu Electric (with TEPCO) and the other by the 2 remaining bidders, Nippon Steel and J-POWER, were established to build 2 new coal power plants in order to supply a total of 680 MW by 2020 (see related links).
TEPCO’s bid for electricity has paved the way for other utility companies such as Kansai Electric to open bids for thermal energy.
In the case of Kansai Electric Power Company, it had stopped running coal-fired power plants on the coast lines of Osaka and Hyogo prefectures up until the 1970s and for a time, the utility only used petroleum and gas for thermal power plants. However, Maizuru Power Plant No. 1 (900MW) and No 2 (900 MW) were newly built and started operations in 2004 and 2010 respectively, which recently upped the amount of electricity supplied by coal-fired power plants. To make the situation worse, at the end of March, 2014, the utility company announced that they have opened a bid for 1500MW for power plants to start generation between 2021 and 2023 to supply electricity to Kansai Electric for at least for 15 years.
In a draft of their bid outline, at what price they will purchase electricity is not disclosed and there is only the condition that “a stable supply of fuel be procured within a set period”. However, as with TEPCO, there is a high possibility that the fuel of choice will be coal. According to some news sources, Kansai Electric and J-POWER will jointly construct a large-scale thermal power plant on a former power plant site in Takasago city, Hyogo prefecture. The debriefing session has already been held and through the establishment of a concrete outline, the bid will be open from July to October, 2014 with the winner being decided in February, 2015.
Unfortunately, Chubu Electric, Tohoku Electric and Kyushu Electric have also announced thermal power bids for 1000 MW, 1200MW and 1000MW respectively. In addition, on April 11th, 2014, TEPCO announced that they will open up bids for a further 6000MW which includes the 2000MW shortage of electricity from their previous bid as well as a power supply for an upcoming power plant replacement.
There seems to be a stream of companies who are getting on the coal bandwagon. It has been reported that 78 companies attended TEPCO’s debriefing session and more than 30 companies attended Kansai Electric’s. In addition, Tohoku Electric and Kyushu Electric both attracted more than 30 companies each (both companies are considering to bid themselves). If this trend continues, the coal rush in Japan will continue beyond 2020. It seems that Japanese companies are almost fanatical in their enthusiasm to use coal.
If this is realized, large amounts of CO2 will be emitted over a long period in the future and we won’t be able to break away from this conventional energy system that relies so heavily on fossil fuels. Both the private and public sector are being put in this situation where the risks are brushed aside. We are moving backwards in the climate change fight. If we continue on this path, we may never be able to turn back. Major utility companies must see the errors of their ways and move away from coal.


“Proceeding with new thermal energy bids (2nd revision)”, Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, February 26th, 2014 (Japanese)

“Kansai Electric, Chubu Electric to build new coal-fired thermal power plants at a cost of 100-200 billion yen”, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, March 25th, 2014 (Japanese)

“With its reactors in limbo, Kansai Electric looks to coal”, Nikkei Asian Review, March 26th, 2014

“Overview of thermal power bid”, Kansai Electric Power Company, March 26th, 2014 (Japanese)

“Submission of the Electricity Supply Plan for Fiscal Year 2014”, Tohoku Electric Power, March 27th, 2014 (Japanese)

“Outline of Supply Plan for FY2014”, Kyushu Electric Power, March 27th, 2014 (Japanese)

“Invitation for Bids on Thermal Power Generation Facilities (2nd tender round)” Tokyo Electric Power Company, April 11th, 2014 (Japanese)

“Bid open for thermal power”, Tokyo Electric Power Company, April 11th, 2014 (Japanese)

Related articles:

“TEPCO and Chubu Electric to form new company, push forward new coal-fired power plant in Ibaraki”, Don’t go back to the sekitan, December 29th, 2013

“3 Reasons why coal should be a choice”, Don’t go back to the sekitan