On June 23, several members of “No Coal Kobe,” a local community group working to stop construction of coal-fired power plants in Kobe, attended KOBELCO’s General Meeting of Shareholders (Annual General Meeting, or AGM) as shareholders and also organized a protest with others outside at the nearest train station.
Below are questions and answers asked at the AGM regarding coal-fired power.
Comments and questions from shareholders:
Regarding coal-fired power generation
- The cost of coal-fired power is higher than renewable energy. The price of solar and wind power is now one-third of coal’s, and it is already starting to win the price competition with coal power generation.
- PM2.5 emitted from coal-fired power plants has impacts on public health, and scientific research has pointed out that PM2.5 is linked to the infection and severity of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. (Link to the report at Kyoto University, and research paper.)
- The Japanese government has declared a net zero emission target for 2050, but research on innovation such as CCS and CCUS has only just begun, with no large-scale implementation in Japan. (KOBELCO is trying to develop CCU/S technology as part of its CO2 emission reduction strategies.)
- KOBELCO explained that it would close its unprofitable businesses under “restructuring of unprofitable businesses,” but coal-fired power generation is not included. Why is coal power not categorized as an unprofitable business?
Regarding the topic of carbon neutrality in KOBELCO’s Medium-Term Management Plan (released May 2021)
- KOBELCO Group’s Medium-Term Management Plan draws a roadmap for blast furnaces and power generation, but CCS and other technologies are not mentioned. It is even pointed out in comments from government ministries in the assessment during the planning phase that these technologies would be considered as countermeasures. Why are these technologies not included in the Management Plan?
- Has KOBELCO given up on introducing CCUS/CCS, etc. for thermal power generation?
Responses from KOBELCO:
- When people say renewable energy is cheap, I think they are referring to prices overseas. In Japan, coal-fired power has been evaluated as inexpensive and economical in the government’s estimation of power generation costs. As far as I’m aware, the cost of renewable energy in Japan has not been decreasing like it has abroad, in part due to this being an island nation.
- On the subject of air pollution. PM2.5 can also be emitted from natural phenomena such as volcanoes. While coal-fired power plants do emit NOx and SOx, in Japan KOBELCO has implemented the highest level removal equipment. Based on the operation results of Units 1-2 so far, we believe that new units will not have a significant impact on the surrounding environment. In addition, KOBELCO signed an environmental preservation agreement with Kobe City, which we are complying with. We will continue to make efforts to ensure stable operation of the plant in order to minimize concerns as much as possible in the future.
- Regarding the roadmap in the Medium-Term Management Plan, CCUS/CCS, ammonia, and hydrogen that are listed in the governmental growth strategy, and we consider our roadmap in line with those government policies.
- In the case of steel, CCS and other technologies are also mentioned based on our experience of using heat utilization and recovery. In the future, as the cost of CCS decreases, we foresee that CO2 will be imported/exported.
- Because of the limited number of suitable sites (domestically) for CCS from thermal power generation, KOBELCO is focusing on ammonia and hydrogen as described in the government’s growth strategy.
- As innovation is expected to lower costs in the future, we have included this as something we can do with certainty in the roadmap of our Medium-Term Management Plan.
* Please note that some of the questions and answers have been written in simplified form, and so complete accuracy of the wording is not guaranteed.
Environmental groups issued the “Business Risk Report for KOBELCO Group 2021” and distributed it to shareholders on the day of the AGM at the nearest train station. This report is to reach out to shareholders and investors, and inform them that KOBELCO is under pressure to change its management plan. The report can be read here (Japanese).
Local resident groups say they will continue to appeal for the need to stop the coal-fired power generation project and to eliminate coal and carbon emissions. They will also continue the fight in civil court.