Creating a path toward carbon neutrality and a hydrogen society as envisioned in “BLUE MISSION 2050”
Find practical solutions in the energy sector’s increasingly complex business environment with our extensive technological skills
As of June 2023, I have taken up the mantle of president of J-POWER. Through the implementation of J-POWER “BLUE MISSION 2050,” which was announced in February 2021, I believe we will support our Company’s mission of providing a stable supply of energy accessible to everyone and at the lowest possible cost as we simultaneously contribute to the realization of a carbon-neutral society both in Japan and around the world.
While this mission’s significance has been reaffirmed in recent years, its difficulty has increased with the complexity of the energy sector. The need for CO2-free energy is rising amid mounting public pressure to combat climate change. However, the introduction of significant amounts of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, will necessitate changes to power systems, transmission and transformation networks, with each nation obligated to adopt a path of change appropriate to its own specific national circumstances. Furthermore, as renewable energy is very dependent upon local natural resources, development must meet each region’s particular requirements. The conversion of thermal energy sources to CO2-free power sources is necessary to combat climate change, and also because thermal energy is subject to supply volatility and resource price changes resulting from global geopolitical threats. As systems that balance global requirements with national realities and technologies that balance renewable and thermal energy are all still under development, we remain committed to innovation.
We believe that the energy industry, both in Japan and overseas, is undergoing significant upheaval. As the COVID-19 pandemic eased in 2023, people’s lives have begun returning to normal, which will boost both the economy and demand for energy. This increased need for a reliable energy supply and a response to climate change marks the start of a new challenge. We will carry out our unwavering mission by listening carefully to our stakeholders, integrating ourselves into the community, fostering people, and providing sustainable energy, even in the face of an uncertain future caused by the complex business climate.
Representative Director President and Chief Executive Officer
Between 2020 and 2022, J-POWER has developed an additional 3 million kW of generation capacity from renewable energy (including solar, wind, and geothermal energy) and thermal power, in Japan and overseas. I believe that the Company’s business foundation has expanded. Never before have so many different types of power sources been created on such a vast scale in so little time. J-POWER has built and operates a wide range of power sources around the world, as well as transmission and transformation facilities that link various parts of Japan. Over time, we have amassed integrated capabilities as a result of our ongoing development of the power supplies that the times demand.
Our integrated capabilities include not only engineering technology, but also the technology to ensure the stable sales of electricity and how to engage with the local communities when constructing power plants. Engagement with local communities is crucial when utilizing power sources like renewable energy, which relies on local natural energy. We cannot move forward with development without being mindful of how the power plants we create are seen by the local communities because once a power plant is constructed, it remains with the community for decades.
We consider our integrated capabilities to be one of our greatest strengths and will hasten the transition of our power sources to carbon neutrality, which we believe will be the key to our future development. These capabilities allow us to develop power sources and then continue to deliver electricity to our customers in a stable manner over an extended period of time.
According to the Basic Energy Plan adopted by the Japanese government, hydroelectric power generation will make up around 10% of the mix of energy sources in 2030, with renewable energies making up the remaining 36-38%. Accelerating new development is necessary, as is making sure that outdated hydroelectric power facilities are renovated.
The NEXUS Sakuma Project, which was announced in 2022, aims to renovate and upcycle the Sakuma Power Plant, where J-POWER got its start, as well as to create more added value.
The development of renewable energy, however, takes time. We must actively engage with the local community and encourage appropriate development. Additionally, Japan’s land constraints and dearth of suitable sites make the development of renewable energy increasingly challenging. We anticipate offshore wind power will be developed as a large-scale renewable energy source, and the electricity sales system will change from a fixed-rate feed-in tariff (FIT) to a feed-in premium (FIP) connected to market pricing. The entire strength of the business operator is necessary to create renewable energy and thereafter steadily generate, sell, and recoup the investment.
In the two years since J-POWER “BLUE MISSION 2050” was announced, I believe we have successfully kept our stakeholders informed by outlining its three main goals. We’re currently in the phase of making and carrying out decisions. Though our decision-making process may appear slow in some contexts, it prioritizes certainty and requires time to discern the results because J-POWER primarily engages in the wholesale electric power business. We anticipate tremendous advancements in technology, electric power development, and electricity system reform by 2030. Though I prefer to make decisions quickly, I have no intention of making bad ones. Amid the reform process, I would like to determine whether a decision being made is appropriate.
Mission as the New President
Investors who first meet with us frequently inquire about the decarbonization of thermal power sources, the progress of the development of renewable energy and Ohma Nuclear Power Plant, CO2-free power sources, and the future expansion plans of power networks. These three strategies make up the J-POWER “BLUE MISSION 2050,” and based on our challenges and potential for growth, I think investors are interested in them.
In addition, the Tokyo Stock Exchange requests listed companies to take measures that are conscious of capital cost and stock price. Our price to book-value ratio (PBR) has continued to be below 1, which management acknowledges as a significant concern. To enhance our PBR, we want to work on both our return on equity (ROE) and our price-earnings ratio (PER). According to this definition, ROE represents our earnings power, whereas PER represents the expansion and sustainability of the Company.
I believe that to improve our PER, we must demonstrate that our business will expand in order to capitalize on upcoming business opportunities. Due to rising coal prices and fewer unplanned outages at thermal power plants in FY2022, the Company experienced record earnings. ROE improved and so did the share price, although not to the same extent as earnings. We interpret this as the stock market’s skepticism about the expansion and sustainability of profits reliant on fossil fuels. Gradual phasing out of aged thermal power plants and the implementation of upcycling to hydrogen power generation and CCS are laid out in the J-POWER “BLUE MISSION 2050,” which states that J-POWER will achieve zero-emission thermal power generation by 2050. However, the capital market probably suspects that we lack a clear strategy for how to raise funds and organize investments to reach this goal. A compliance review of the CO2-free Ohma Nuclear Power Plant is taking quite some time. This leads me to think the capital market is evaluating the uncertainty surrounding return on investment for planned developments. Investors have already asked me on multiple occasions about my primary priorities as president. My response is usually the same: I aim to show that J-POWER will grow by developing as much renewable energy as possible as early as possible. This is a growth area. Moreover, we will grow by working to strengthen our network to deliver this energy to areas where it is in demand. I will also demonstrate J-POWER’s business continuity by paving the road for the earliest possible decarbonization of thermal power sources to lower the Company’s carbon footprint and by fully harnessing our efforts toward completing Ohma’s compliance review. Not only is this my duty as president, but I also believe it will improve the our PER.
By FY2022, all of the substantial domestic and overseas projects we had been working on over the mid- to long-term had been put into operation. From this point forward, our attention will be focused on initiatives that seek to transition our business portfolio in order to increase PER as previously mentioned. In parallel with these investments, improving ROE will require higher capital efficiency by selling or replacing assets, in addition to improving efficiency by continuing the stable operation of existing power plants, responding to market fluctuations, and utilizing DX. We are considering using return on invested capital (ROIC) as a measure of how well these advancements are being managed overall.
At the end of FY2022, we were ahead of schedule in achieving the targets in the Medium-Term Management Plan for ordinary income of 90 billion yen and an equity ratio of 30%. As the current Medium-Term Management Plan will expire in FY2023, we are presently developing our new strategy for upcoming years. The asset composition in 2030, the amount of investment required to reach this target, and the proportion of debt to equity in terms of fundraising must all be forecasted in the new medium-term plan. In addition, we would like to keep the conversation going with specifics so that the capital market understands that our assets and initiatives will ensure continued generated profit in the future.
Human resource development
Despite having a small workforce, J-POWER is characterized by its wide range of power generation, transmission and transformation facilities, which are deployed all over the world. As a result of this wide-ranging involvement, we encounter many of the same difficulties currently facing the global energy business. The energy sector must strike a balance between local challenges such as electricity system reform and electric power supply development, which vary in reality from nation to nation, and global imperatives like combating climate change. In a business environment that is becoming more complex, it is difficult to maintain a stable energy supply and this state could last for a long period. Though electric power providers have a challenging obligation to maintain a stable power supply despite the circumstances, I’d like to perform this duty in order to meet the high expectations of society. From this perspective, we will cultivate diverse expertise and broad viewpoints in human resource development to address a wide range of issues as well as the capacity to manage projects and human resources in a changing environment. Above all, I believe it’s essential to push ourselves to recognize and address new issues. We will support the development of workplaces where such human resources can engage with one another and develop each other’s skills, positioning them as “professional human resources” with these essential qualities.
As I reflect on my own experiences with the benefit of hindsight, I believe that it was only when I accepted responsibility for my actions that I was able to own both my achievements and mistakes, and that this allowed for further development. Employee growth depends on both human resource allocation and human resource development. We will give decision-making rights and responsibility to employees, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or experience and provide the opportunity to put what they have learned in the training program into practice.
We are currently dealing with an increasing age range of managers in particular, so I believe we must offer younger members the chance to take on challenges at work while also moving them into new positions as quickly as we can. We will turn the growth of each of these employees into a driving force for the Company’s growth as we transform toward carbon neutrality and increase J-POWER’s corporate value.
Engagement with local communities
Power generation projects entail the construction of substantial facilities as well as their long-term operation. Therefore, each project must be constructed and operated in a manner appropriate to each individual community and its environment. Furthermore, developing a trusting relationship and an awareness of the local community serves as the cornerstone for J-POWER’s business activities. It is our duty to consider how we might help as both a power supplier and a local member of the community. Being attentive is necessary in order to understand how the community perceives the work we do.
The aforementioned NEXUS Sakuma Project is one example of our efforts to create new value while aiming for harmony between hydroelectric power generation, the local area its people, and the watershed.
J-POWER transitioned from a company with an Audit & Supervisory Board to one with an Audit & Supervisory Committee at the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders in 2022. The most significant outcome of this change has been increased discussion among board members. Discussions have been very active with the newly appointed members of the Board of Directors and Audit & Supervisory Committee members stepping up to the plate. Opportunities outside of Board of Directors meetings are also provided in order to discuss long-term strategies, such as a response to climate change, which is an important management issue, future areas of focus that leverage our strengths, and the Company’s vision for the future.
We make an effort to present the most recent information as an additional mechanism to advance discussions. The members of the Board of Directors bring varied and specialized skills, and work together to disseminate the most recent knowledge on electricity system reform and climate change response. Despite the fact that the Board of Directors meetings have traditionally included a variety of discussions, we felt the need to further deepen those discussions in light of rapid changes in the environment. We have been able to encourage and improve strategic talks on the issues facing the Company by changing the organizational structure, expanding opportunity for discussion, and providing up-to-date information.
Through discussions at Board of Directors meetings and other forums between outside directors (with a wealth of experience and diversity) and internal directors (who are also serving as executive officers and skilled in the specialized technologies and business promotion), we flexibly adapt to changes in the business environment based on the premise of both a stable energy supply and response to climate change. The question of whether the number of board members is appropriate for spirited conversation has been posed. Evaluation from various technical aspects is crucial when discussing the power generation business, especially when it comes to largescale project development. Our Board of Directors’ diversity and technical proficiency are crucial for determining the best course of action to resolve problems, as well as weighing the pros and cons of developing large-scale projects. We consider one of the strengths of our Board to be its capacity for technical discussion at meetings.
By 2030, we must complete a number of projects before we can transition our power supply toward carbon neutrality. The Board of Directors will decide whether taking risks is appropriate by considering a number of factors, such as energy systems, profitability, and the Company’s response to climate change. In February 2021, J-POWER “BLUE MISSION 2050” was announced. Since then, we’ve engaged in a number of conversations with different stakeholders, and we believe we now have a better understanding of three strategies: the development of renewable energy and Ohma Nuclear Power, a CO2-free power source; decarbonization of coal-fired thermal power; and the enhancement our power network. However, carrying out all of these suitable investments isn’t possible. Going forward, the Board of Directors should, in my opinion, develop a shared understanding of how to strategically apply these three approaches, convey it to stakeholders, and foster discussion.