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No killer app for Asia’s transition

Japan's government is seeking to get as close as possible to carbon neutral by 2050

Technological breakthroughs have been a key contributor to the falling price of low carbon and renewable energy in Asia over the past decade, with ultra-efficient new solar cell and offshore wind turbine designs helping brings costs down to as low as $0.10 kW/h. 

Hendrik Gordenker, a Jera senior corporate vice president, says progress must continue at every link in the value chain to meet the challenge of providing clean, affordable power to the continent’s growing population. 

What technologies will be important to Jera over the next 10 years? 

Gordenker: The entire energy sector is facing a whole new set of challenges with new economies growing and having needs for additional energy. We have the continuing challenge of providing affordable access of energy to many people, while also responding to climate change and creating a new energy system that is sustainable for the climate. 

You ask what about what technologies do we see as important? Basically, we need to look at new technologies in pretty much every part of the energy sector. It is difficult to narrow it down to just a few things. 

Let me give you a few examples of some of the things that Jera is doing. Obviously, the further development of renewable power sources will be an important part of meeting these challenges. A lot to be done in bringing the costs down and building these projects intelligently so that they can provide power with less variability. 

There are a lot of renewable resources out there that can be used to provide energy to places that need them that are not yet tapped. A good example is offshore wind power, which is not very far developed in Asia as a whole. 

Renewables are going to be an important part of the story, but we're also very much involved in energy storage, particularly battery storage. We made an investment in a battery storage company in the UK called Zenobe and are working together with them on various projects. We have an alliance with battery storage company Fluence and are looking at a number of battery storage projects. 

There will be a lot of transition to new technologies over the coming years. One thing we can do now is to use conventional power more efficiently. This can have a very significant and immediate impact in terms of reduction of climate impact. 

In Japan, are the concerns over climate change impacting on domestic politics enough to drive further desire for the energy transition? 

Gordenker: The Japanese government recognises the importance of an energy transition and has set ambitious long-term goals, seeking to get as close as possible to carbon neutral by 2050. Policies have been undertaken to help promote and meet those ambitious goals. 

But there are areas of concern. For instance, the Ministry of Energy, Trade and Industry prepares a basic energy plan, but in the latest one the energy mix remained almost unchanged compared to the previous one three years prior. 

One new point was plans for a fade-out of older, less efficient coal-fired power plants in Japan. There's a significant stock of older, less efficient coal-fired power plants and they have climate impact with significant CO2 emissions. It's an important priority for Japan to fade out these plants as it would make a real difference in terms of Japan's national carbon intensity. Unfortunately, so far, the government hasn't announced any concrete measures to implement that. 

It needs to be done in a wise manner to ensure security of supply. But this is low-hanging fruit. Japanese people and companies, very admirably, are attentive to the use of energy and have been reducing energy demand over the last eight or nine years significantly. This creates the opportunity to focus on using more efficient power generating sources. This is a real opportunity where action should occur sooner rather than later. 

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