In Japan, the share of hydropower in electricity production increased to over nine percent in recent years. The country represented one of the largest consumers of hydropower worldwide. Hydropower, also known as waterpower, is the use of the power and movement of flowing or falling water to produce electricity or to power machines. Hydropower stations vary in size and in the way they produce energy. Generally, a hydropower plant consists of a station where electricity is produced, a dam to control water flow, and a reservoir to store water.
Positive aspects of the renewable energy source are that it does not directly produce greenhouse gas emissions while providing a relatively consistent source of energy. On the other hand, hydropower stations can damage aquatic ecosystems. The dams can obstruct fish migration, change the water temperature as well as river flow characteristics, which can have negative effects on native plants and animals that live in and around the river.
Hydropower in Japan
In recent years, solar power overtook hydropower as the largest renewable energy source in Japan. Both solar power and hydropower had an electricity output of around 80 terawatt hours. Nevertheless, the electricity production from hydropower indicated a slight decrease. Since the country has constructed large-scale hydroelectric facilities at nearly all potential sites, typically at large dams, a further increase in the generation capacity is hardly possible. Therefore, recent constructions have been on a smaller scale, mostly developing pumped-storage plants. While conventional run-of-river systems generate energy from the natural flowing of water, without using a dam or reservoir, pumped-storage facilities use two water reservoirs at different elevations that can produce energy as water runs through a turbine as it passes down from one to the other.
Expansion of renewable energies in Japan
Fossil fuels remained the largest energy source for electricity production in Japan, accounting for close to 75 percent. But the share of renewables in electricity generation has increased to over 20 percent in recent years. Next to hydropower, solar energy and wind energy are gaining importance and are likely to expand in the future as the Japanese government is supporting the growth of these markets. Since there is limited space on the mountainous island to build further power stations, projects for offshore wind farms and floating solar panels are planned.
In the new Strategic Energy Plan that was released in 2021, the country raised its target for the share of renewables from 24 to 38 percent by 2030. Even though nuclear energy is seen critically since the nuclear accident in Fukushima in 2011, as a source of low-carbon energy, it will be essential to meet the goal of carbon-neutrality that is set for 2050.
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