Energy consumption in Japan: A couple of data points

Just out of curiosity, I decided to take a look at Japan’s energy situation. Here is the US Energy Department profile of the country:

Japan has virtually no domestic oil or natural gas reserves and is the second-largest net importer of crude oil and largest net importer of liquefied natural gas in the world. Including nuclear power, Japan is still only 16 percent energy self-sufficient. Japanese companies have actively pursued upstream oil and natural gas projects overseas in light of the country’s lack of domestic hydrocarbon resources. Japan remains one of the major exporters of energy-sector capital equipment and Japanese companies provide engineering, construction, and project management services for energy projects around the world. Japan has a strong energy research and development program that is supported by the government. The Japanese government actively pursues energy efficiency measures in an attempt to increase the country’s energy security and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Oil is the most consumed energy resource in Japan, although its share of total energy consumption has declined by about 30 percent since the 1970s. Coal continues to account for a significant share of total energy consumption, although natural gas and nuclear power are increasingly important sources, particularly as Japan pursues environmental policies. Japan is the third largest consumer of nuclear power in the world, after the United States and France. Hydroelectric power and renewable energy account for a relatively small percentage of total energy consumption in the country. Total energy consumption from 2003 to 2030 is forecast to grow by 0.3 percent per year on average, relatively small as compared to China’s forecast growth rate of 4.2 percent per year on average, according to EIA data.

According to METI’s energy agency, 58% of Japan’s electricity consumption comes from non-renewable sources such as oil, coal, and liquefied natural gas. That number is a whopping 71% in the US.

Japan energy consumption

As the Energy Dept. indicates, Japanese officials view Japan’s high energy consumption and low self-sufficiency as a potential vulnerability, in both economic and national security terms. For example, Iran’s  status as a major supplier of oil heightens Japan’s interest in the region (and based on pure speculation, might have influenced the Japanese media’s comparatively tame coverage of the recent Iranian election protests).

So remember: when you are enduring higher office temperatures thanks to Cool Biz, you’re not just saving electricity, you’re helping guarantee Japanese security!

18 thoughts on “Energy consumption in Japan: A couple of data points”

  1. Actually I’ve been looking into this a little lately myself, both for work and due to a book I picked up a little bit ago about clean energy sources.

    I see your data says 2005, but more recent numbers I’ve seen people flashing around on Japan’s nuclear situation shows it producing closer to 30% of overall power generation as of 8 plants going online last year, and is scheduled to produce a little over 40% by 2017 as their measures to meet the Kyoto Protocol. If I can find credible data on the first point then I’ll post it.

    Those numbers on the US are just… geh. Supposedly we spend more than $1 trillion US per year on importing oil. I hope Obama can do something about it, but then every President since Carter has said we need to kick the oil habit and yet here we are.

  2. correction of the above: the 30% figure above (most recent data shows 25% actually) is for electrical output, so if you’re including fuel for vehicles, etc. then that would definitely lower things.

    Here’s some numbers in English for those interested – clicking on Japan gives you a nice, long summary of Japan’s history with nuclear power:

  3. I personally like the OilExport database for these comparisons:

    Japan on it:

    It’s important to understand the difference between energy and mtoe, million tons of oil equivalent. Because if you look at say, wind power, you don’t have thermal losses like you do with oil, so depending on the sources, a direct energy comparison may or may not be fair. What you present is a mtoe comparsion. However, there is no universal exchange rates between different energy sources so this contains subjectivity.

    @ Darg:
    Nuclear produces around 30% of electricity in Japan. In addition to electricity there are transportation fuels and other miscellaneous items like process heat and even firewood that should be accounted for in a holistic energy analysis. Nuclear only contributes to electricity production (aside from a negligible handful of desalination plants).

    I’ve written a majority of this:

    And with a little reading you can see that there is outrageous variability since there are single generating stations that comprise 8% of electricity output that can go offline for TWO YEARS because of something like an earthquake.

    Japan’s oil exports have been decreasing, but the oil intensity of modern society is crazy across the board. Resource-wise, Japan is very similar to South Korea, which is in pretty much the same situation. I think you can expect them to be the first in the world to successfully accomplish the task of getting ‘off’ oil.

    Great topic, glad to see discussion going on with it.

  4. And even more energy in the US is consumed by central heating systems that heat the entire bathroom area!

    Glad some readers like this topic, but I cant promise I’ll keep it up. I have no real purpose for looking this stuff up (it’s not something I can get worked up about like my disdain for inferior beer), but I am always interested to learn more.

  5. Yeah, I think we can guarantee that more energy is wasted by central heating and central hot water heaters (in Japan, water is heated by instant water heaters, not kept hot all the time) in the US than by toilet seats in Japan. Of course, actually putting insulation in their houses here would make for a pretty dramatic home energy use savings.

  6. Every time I go back to the States or travel to Europe I notice the increasing number of wind turbines. Japanese power companies seem to view them as a threat to the interests and want nothing to do with them. Hence, stories like that a day or two ago in the Yomiuri about “infrasound”-caused health problems reported by people living near wind farms.

  7. “According to METI’s energy agency, 58% of Japan’s electricity consumption comes from non-renewable sources such as oil, coal, and liquefied natural gas.”

    That pie graphs shows
    Oil: 49%
    Coals: 20%
    Total: 83% for non-renewable. Worse than the US, in fact.

    I am surprised hydro is so low, frankly. There are a ton of dams in Japan, and many of them have hydro plants. To take another small island nation with lots of rivers, NZ produces 72% of its power from hydro. (Statistcs New Zealand).

  8. “To take another small island nation with lots of rivers, NZ produces 72% of its power from hydro.”

    Since when did NZ become a world-class maufacturer with 125,000,000 people? (Obligatory sheep joke omitted).

  9. M-Bone: true, I was aware of that, but you would think that Japan, with hundreds of dams, could at least do a bit better. Both countries have lot of mountains and short fast rivers. Wikipedia lists a couple of hundred hydro dams for Japan too.

    Although come to think of it, I wonder what hydro is as a proportion of electricity rather than energy.

  10. “Wow, New Zeland actually uses about 15% more electricity per capita than Japan.”

    According to Stats NZ (I’m not adding links as it takes age for the posts to appear if I do), a not insignificant fraction of NZ’s power use is leakage and stuff from the longer lines needed to get the power from where it is generated to where it is actually used. Also, a good fraction of that 15% would be accounted for by the fact that almost all domestic water heating and stovetop cooking in Japan is gas (especially the former). I wonder if the 240V vs 110V has anything to do with it as well?

    Chad doesn’t use a lot of electricity either, mind you….
    China is 5 times India too, which is interesting.

  11. I agree with you adamu. I was just being funny. I love those heated seats. They are my best friend when I visit my in-law in the winter.

  12. Heated seats are sort of nice in winter, but in summer they make me very uncomfortable. Last thing I want is an already warm toilet seat.

  13. “Last thing I want is an already warm toilet seat”

    Makes me feel as if someone has just vacated the place, too.

  14. I had to deal with the warm toilet seat situation yesterday at a department store. I couldn’t find where to turn off the heater so I just unplugged the entire unit.

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