In 2015, J-POWER, Osaka Gas, and Ube Industries established Yamaguchi-Ube Power Generation and carried out an environmental impact assessment to build two 600MW units utilising ultra-supercritical (USC) technology planned to begin operation in 2026.
The Kiko Network, other citizens’ groups and residents have raised concerns about this project over the new design of the Nishiokinoyama power plant, claiming that it will exacerbate climate change and cause air pollution. Contrary to the company’s explanation that it will take the best environmental measures, the amount of CO 2 emissions is large. For 600 MW the estimated production of CO2 per year would be 3.6 million tons, and double this amount for 1,200 MW (6). The environmental impact assessment so far revealed that it is more pollutant than the already operating coal-fired power plant. It became clear that the numerical value of the emission concentration of coal was improper, and criticism of the plan increased. Around Osaka, citizens’ actions have been taken since 2016 to issue a postcard requesting the president of Osaka Gas to withdraw from the new coal-fired power plant expansion plan. Furthermore, on the day of the Osaka Gas Shareholders’ Meeting in June last year, a protest action was taken against Osaka Gas, promoting the coal business, while advertising that “gas is clean energy” in front of the venue. Ube’s Coal-Fired Platform
Tenacious civil action, hoping to protect the safe climate and atmospheric environment, led to withdrawal from Osaka Gas. On April 24, 2019, the Osaka Gas Co., Ltd. announced that it would withdraw from the new expansion plan for the coal-fired power plant “Nishiokinoyama Power Plant (tentative name)” promoted in Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan. According to the announcement by Osaka Gas, “a comprehensive decision was made in light of our investment standards, taking into account changes in the business environment surrounding the electric power business and future risks.”
The Ube Industries, Ltd. and Electric Power Development Co., Ltd. have announced that they will change their plans and continue their new design plans. It will change the installed capacity from 600,000 kW x 2 units and consider changing the project to 600,000 kW class USC or oxygen-blown IGCC (Integrated Coal Gasification Combined Cycle). However, the Kiko network claimed that it is inconsistent with the Paris Agreement of phasing coal-fired power generation entirely in 2030. The local movement insisted that even if the project is revised to meet the current government energy policy, including the change to IGCC, the fundamental problems on climate change persist. The mobilisation groups argued that although the advancing research and efforts for future decarbonisation, such as CCS (carbon capture and storage) and CCU, the power development, arranged techniques prospect is not standing practical use. Therefore, the solution reliance on technologies that are unlikely to be put to practical use by 2030 was heavily criticised by the opposition grassroots groups, claiming that the technological perspectives are used only to justify the continuation of fossil fuel use and energy-intensive societies.
In addition to the residents and the ENGO, the local mayor of Ube expressed his opinion calling for a “reexamination” in the environmental impact assessment procedure, showing a strict attitude toward coal-fired power . . In 2019 March, the Minister of the Environment also announced, “Toward a Low Carbonisation of the Electric Power Sector-Three New Actions-” implying a strict view on new coal-fired power plants.
Despite the withdrawal from Osaka Gas and oppositions, the remaining business partners showed interest in continuing the project by reducing the scale to a single 600MW unit and changing to an oxygen-blown IGCC (Integrated Coal Gasification Combined Cycle).
On April 16, 2021, Electric Power Development Co., Ltd. (J-POWER) and Ube Industries announced the cancellation of new construction plans for Nishiokinoyama Power Plant (tentative name), a planned coal-fired power plant in Ube, Yamaguchi-prefecture.
In its press release, companies stated that “in the western Japan area where this plant would be located, electricity demand is expected to remain flat and the introduction of renewable energy is expanding. As a result of comprehensive judgment based on the business environment including these factors, the company has decided to cancel this plan.”
There are still 25 new expansion plans for coal-fired power plants nationwide. The climate change organisations are calling for businesses to withdraw from new high-risk coal-fired power plants. These civil society organisations promote the long-term low-emission development strategy, but the industry’s opposition has revoked the proposed decarbonisation policy. The successful cancellation of Ube power generation is considered the first step towards the coal-phase out movement started with the Japan Beyond Coal Platform establishment in 2020.