Japan PM vows to boost renewable energy

PARIS Wed May 25, 2011 7:10pm BST

Rooftops of solar powered houses are pictured in Ota, 80 km northwest of Tokyo October 28, 2008. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Rooftops of solar powered houses are pictured in Ota, 80 km northwest of Tokyo October 28, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Yuriko Nakao

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PARIS (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan pledged on Wednesday to boost renewable energy to at least 20 percent of Japan's electricity supply in the 2020s, as he reviews the role of atomic energy after the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25 years.

Kan also assured world leaders the Japanese economy was recovering strongly two and a half months after the massive earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan and left some 25,000 people dead or missing.

Kan's call to shift to green energy reflects efforts to ensure energy security and safety concerns after the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Kan has called for a review of Japan's energy policy that aims to increase nuclear power to more than 50 percent of electricity supply by 2030 from about 30 percent now.

"Regardless of what energy policy we will adopt, we must ask ourselves the question whether it is appropriate for society to increase energy consumption without any limits," Kan said in a prepared speech to members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris.

Before the quake, resource-scarce Japan has touted nuclear power as a cost-effective way to reduce reliance on fossil fuel and was the world's third-biggest user of nuclear power.

Various types of renewable energy account for about 10 percent of Japan's power demand, but it was not clear exactly what type of renewable energy Kan was referring to.

Japan will also aim to cut solar power generation costs to one-third of the current by 2020 and one-sixth by 2030, he said, without mentioning details.

Solar power generation now costs about 50 yen per kilowatt hour, while nuclear and thermal power costs about 5-13 yen per kilowatt hour, government data showed.

He added that he aimed to place solar panels on some 10 million roofs in Japan by 2030.

In an earlier meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Kan also assured France that Japan will continue to rely on nuclear power after enhancing its safety, though he did not say how big a role it would play in the country's energy balance.

The Japanese premier is set on Thursday to outline efforts to bring the Fukushima nuclear plant under control, at the beginning of the Group of Eight meeting at Deauville in France.

The world's third biggest economy stumbled into its second recession in three years after the disaster, though most economists see growth resuming in the second half of the year.

(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Maria Golovnina)

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