Discursive resistance to phasing out coal-fired electricity: Narratives in Japan's coal regime

Gregory Trencher, Noel Healy, Koichi Hasegawa, Jusen Asuka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Achieving temperature targets under the Paris Agreement requires urgent measures to curb construction of coal-fired power plants (CFPPs) and expediate the retirement of existing assets. As the world's fourth largest coal consumer, Japan's efforts to reduce coal usage are critical for international climate mitigation. Policies introduced after the Fukushima nuclear disaster have led to a rapid increase in solar. However deregulation of the electricity market has also prompted a rush of new CFPP constructions by new market entrants and incumbent utilities. In parallel, Japanese state agencies and industry are actively exporting CFPP technologies to developing countries. Although these domestic and international actions harbour serious consequences for global climate mitigation efforts, greater understanding of the factors driving Japan's coal dependency is needed to limit further lock-in of future carbon emissions. Filling this gap, this study critically examines narratives employed by actors in government and industry to sustain Japan's domestic and international coal industry. Our analysis shows how Japan's fossil fuel regime is employing recurring narratives to promote continuation of the current coal-based energy system and to mobilise further investments in high-efficiency coal power technologies. We conclude by recommending various policy pathways and institutional reform measures aimed at encouraging wider diffusion of renewable electricity sources while reducing coal dependency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)782-796
Number of pages15
JournalEnergy Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Sept


  • Coal
  • Energy transition
  • Fossil fuel regimes
  • Fossil fuels phase-out
  • Japanese energy policy
  • Narratives

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy(all)
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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