Goldman-founded firm says Japan must do more on clean energy

Japan’s government isn’t doing enough to make sure the country meets its climate targets, according to the chief of a top renewable energy firm.

While setting long-term targets such as being carbon-neutral by 2050 is a positive, there’s still a lack of clear policies on how to reach that goal, said Kazuhiro Takeuchi, chief executive officer of Japan Renewable Energy Co. The government should ease permitting processes and help clean energy firms gain access to land, he said.

Takeuchi’s frustrations highlight an ongoing struggle in Japan as the country aims to fulfill ambitious climate change goals while maintaining a secure and stable energy system. A top government official recently blasted the trade ministry for not doubling down on renewable energy, even as the agency has been urging companies to continue investing in fossil fuels.

“It does feel a little unclear and doesn’t make much sense at the moment,” Takeuchi said about the current government’s framework for tackling climate change. “There needs to be drastically stronger policy backup.” 

Takeuchi, who spoke in an interview Wednesday from the firm’s Tokyo headquarters, is guiding JRE after it was sold in October by founder Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and others to oil refiner Eneos Holdings Inc. for 200 billion yen ($1.8 billion). The deal will likely be completed in January, and Takeuchi is hoping to develop synergies with Eneos’s retail electricity and battery storage businesses.

The firm has 367 megawatts of renewable capacity under construction in addition to the 510 megawatts of solar, onshore wind and biomass currently in operation.

The company is developing offshore wind sites in three areas across Japan. The government is eyeing a massive boost from the technology to help reduce fossil fuel reliance by 2030, but Takeuchi cautioned that installing them is far easier said than done, especially with so little time left until the end of the decade. 

More easier-to-develop solar and onshore wind could be built if Japan were to ease regulations, he said. For example, the government should set clear guidelines to develop renewable energy on the country’s unusable farmlands. 

“Such areas are increasing, but there’s no clear policy for using them,” he said. 

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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