Pledges to Be Carbon Neutral by Japan, South Korea To Ensure Solar Growth

The story in India might be depressing, with installations likely to hit a 4 year low this year after the peak of 2017, but the bigger picture for solar remains bright. That is because in the economies that can truly swing the balance, solar remains key to achieving key emission and carbon neutrality goals.

Joining the list this week are Japan first and yesterday, South Korea. That takes to over 60, the lit of countries that have pledged to achieve the target by 2050. China, the largest energy producer and consumer today, that also leads in emissions, has also pledged to achieve the target ‘before’ 2060.

Interestingly, both Japan and South Korea have broadly similar  fuel mix with 80% share of hydrocarbons in primary energy supply. Renewables (ex-hydro) is under 2% while nuclear takes up 15%. That makes their goals quite a challenge. According to a report from Woodmac,South Korea has a slight headstart in that it already has a carbon trading system in place, something many energy analysts have considered a vital part of any effort to achieve carbon neutrality. The trading system enables firms to set off their emissions against green energy firms, or firms that have a net negative carbon balance.  The current price of $30 per tonner is expected to increase to $100 per tonne according to Woodmac,  as emission norms are gradually tightened.

These forward looking pledges, while not really enforceable, do have adequate planning and science behind them to  raise hopes that these are not just done for effect. Experts in fact believe that breakthroughs in solar costs and efficiency, coupled with a drop in energy storage costs could hurry a lot more countries to take up the same pledge by 2025 or so. Large economies like India and the US have stayed away from making the pledge, although it is fair to say that both would be looking at the Chinese benchmark at the very least.

Achieving these numbers already counts on significant changes to the transportation sector, besides higher efficiencies as well as power sources in the industrial, agricultural  and residential sectors. That means an EV share of between 40 to 55 percent by 2030, complete sectors like agriculture that run on renewable energy exclusively by 2040  and progress in green hydrogen development and usage for energy intensive sectors.

Carbon recycling, be it in the form of mass tree plantation drives or technologies that retrieve carbon for storage from the atmosphere, are also on the menu of course.

Both South Korea and Japan have indicated that getting energy from solar would be a key pillar of their carbon ambitions.

Japan in fact will overtake India this year in fresh solar capacity additions,   with over 6 GW expected to be added this year, well over India’s anaemic 4.2 GW  additions. Japan in fact has lately offered one of the most attractive solar markets in the world to manufacturers, thanks to higher energy prices that have enabled developers to go with the latest bifacial modules  and other high efficiency but premium offerings there. Of course, this advantage will end soon as the FIT regime ends there, besides the land and grid issues so common to India are becoming a serious issue in Japan too.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna has been a media professional for over 20 years. He is the Group Editor of Saur Energy International