Japan - Electricity Generation

Despite the large geothermal potential of the country, estimated about 20 GWe, the present total capacity of geothermal power plant is still around 500 MWe, almost unchanged for more than a decade. After the nuclear accident in March 2011, the government restarted an incentive scheme for geothermal development and mitigation of constraints in national parks, encouraging new geothermal exploration activities by private sectors as well as quick installation of small binary systems. About 40 projects are under exploration or development. The following fields are active: Akita (88 MWe), Fukushima (65 MWe), Hachijojima (3 MWe), Hokkaido (25 MWe), Iwate (103 MWe), Kagoshima (60 MWe), Kumamoto (2 MWe), Miyagi (15 MWe), Oita (155 MWe), and Tokamachi (2 MWe) (Yasukawa and Sasada, 2015).

Development since WGC2010: no major projects; derating the unit of Mori from 50 to 25 MWe.

Installed capacity 519 MWe                 
Geothermal Electricity 2,687 GWh/y

Source:  Ruggero Bertani, Geothermal Power Generation in the World 2010-2014 Update Report

Installed geothermal generating capacity (arch 2008) in MW 


 Japan is one of the most tectonically active countries in the world, with nearly 200 volcanoes and the evidence of tremendous geothermal energy resources. Its geothermal development started in 1925, with an experimental unit, and the first commercial plant on Matsukawa started in 1966.

About twenty geothermal power plants are in operation at 17 locations nationwide, scattered all along the country. Most are located in the Tohoku and Kyushu districts. In these years, there have not been significant developments of geothermal power plants in Japan, with the exception of two small binary units, in Hatchobaru and Kirishima Kokusai Hotel: A 2 MWe power unit was established at the Hatchobaru geothermal power station in February 2004, and started its operation in April 2006. And a 220 kW domestic binary geothermal power unit started its operation at the Kirishima Kokusai Hotel in August 2006.

Total geothermal power capacity in Japan has changed little since 1995. No new plants are planned in the coming years. It is very clear the effect on the production of the reduction in the investment in power plant and field maintenance. Geothermal energy needs a continuous effort for ensuring sustainable cultivation of the resource!

Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)

In April 2003, the Special Law Concerning the Use of Renewable Energy by Electric Utilities came into force, establishing a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) system in Japan. The RPS system is intended to accelerate further development of renewable energy sources by requiring the electric power utilities to supply electricity generated from renewable energies with a target amount specified by the government in proportion to their total electricity sales.
The Japanese Government has set the target to be 12,200 GWh (1.35% of total electricity) by 2010 and 16,000 GWh (1.65% of total) by 2014.
The renewable energy sources included in the RPS system are solar, wind, hydroelectric (1,000 kWe or less), biomass and geothermal. For geothermal, however, practically only binarycycle power plants are applicable to the RPS system.

A committee was established in 2008 in the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) with members from power producers, geothermal resources developers to promote further geothermal power generation. Major discussions in the committee include: 1) inclusion of all types of geothermal power generation in the RPS system, which currently only applies to binary cycle plants in geothermal sectors, and 2) increase of governmental subsidies to construction costs of geothermal power plants. Japan will soon resume its development of geothermal power plants in order to realize a low-carbon society. 

Taken from Ruggero Bertani’s paper, " Geothermal Power Generation in the World 2005–2010 Update Report ", published in Proceedings of the World Geothermal Congress 2010, Bali, Indonesia, 25-29 April 2010 Sugino, H. and Akeno, T. : "2010 Country Update for Japan", published in Proceedings of the World Geothermal Congress 2010, Bali, Indonesia, 25-29 April 2010