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Ube-Nishiokinoyama CFPP, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan


Description:

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.”[1]  

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 [2]. . 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.”[3]

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. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Ube-Nishiokinoyama CFPP, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan
Country:Japan
State or province:Yamaguchi Prefecture
Location of conflict:Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Thermal power plants
Specific commodities:Electricity
Coal

Project Details and Actors

Project details

In Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, plans for two 600 GW ultra-supercritical (USC) coal-fired power plants (1.2 GW in total) emerged in 2014. This "Nishiokinoyama Power Plant (tentative name)" is being built by Yamaguchi Ube Power Co., Ltd., which is jointly funded by Electric Power Development Co., Ltd. and Ube Industries, Ltd., on a site adjacent to Ube Industries' coal relay station.

On 21 April 2021, the Kiko network noticed in a press release that "With the cancellation of this project, at least 3.6 million tons of CO2 emissions per year will be avoided (in the case of one 600MW unit)". (6).

Level of Investment:2,899,220,280
Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:01/03/2015
End of the conflict:16/04/2021
Company names or state enterprises:Yamaguchi Ube Power Co., Ltd
Electric Power Development Co., Ltd. from Japan
Ube Industries, Ltd. from Japan
Osaka Gas from Japan
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Kiko network

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Global warming, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Violations of human rights

Outcome

Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Project temporarily suspended
Development of alternatives:According to the Kiko network,"Proponents of the remaining 25 coal projects in the pipeline in Japan should also withdraw from the new expansion of coal plants, which pose so many risks. In the nation’s long-term low-emission growth strategy currently being considered by the government, a coal phase-out was reportedly removed due to opposition from industry. Any strategy to maintain the status quo will not only hamper efforts to address climate change but also be a drag on sound economic growth. The government needs to recognize that its failure to adopt proper policies has resulted in industry heading to the wrong direction. It is time for Japan to adopt a coal phase-out policy to realize a decarbonized society." (4)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:Because of the protests, and because of the companies' own assessment of risk, the project was stopped in April 2021.

Sources & Materials

(4). Kiko Press Release. Osaka Gas pulls out of coal-fired power plant expansion plan in Yamaguchi Prefecture: J-POWER and Ube Industries should reverse their decision to continue. Mie Asaoka, President, Kiko Network. April 24, 2019
https://www.kikonet.org/eng/press-release/2019-04-24/Ube-coal

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

(5) Short description of the case in "Japan Beyond Coal".
https://beyond-coal.jp/en/local-activities/yamaguchi-ube/

(6) Welcoming J-POWER and Ube Industries’decision to cancel coal power station in Yamaguchi, Japan~Other coal-fired power projects must stop, too~April 16, 2021Kiko NetworkMie Asaoka, President
https://www.kikonet.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/20210416_Nishiokinoyama_cancellation_ENG.pdf

Other documents

Yamaguchi-Ube Power Generation Co., Ltd. Cancels cancelation letter
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/5354/news210416_1e.pdf

Yamaguchi-Ube Power Generation Co., Ltd. Cancels Osaka Gas letter
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/5354/190424_1.pdf

Other comments:[1] Kiko Network, 2021. Ube’s coal-fired power plant plan has been cancelled! [WWW Document]. URL https://beyond-coal.jp/news/yamaguchi-ube-power-cancel_202104/ (accessed 6.9.21).

[2]Kiko Network, 2019a. Yamaguchi Coal-Fired Power Plant New Design Plan Osaka Gas Announces Withdrawal-Electric Power Development Co., Ltd.-Ube Industries Misjudged Business Continuity, Immediately Canceled [WWW Document]. URL https://www.kikonet.org/info/press-release/2019-04-24/osaka-gas-coalpowerplan-ube-cancel (accessed 6.9.21).

[3]Kiko Network, 2019b. Two mayors comment on the new design of Yamaguchi’s coal-fired power plant promoted by Osaka Gas, etc. [WWW Document]. URL https://beyond-coal.jp/archives/nishiokinoyama-iken/ (accessed 6.9.21).

Meta information

Contributor:Environmental Justice Japan
Last update03/07/2021

Images

 

Map of the Ube City Project

 

J-power