As one of the most “energy security obsessed countries in the world”, Japan will have to broaden its conception of energy security to include green technologies and critical minerals, according to Tatsuya Terazawa, chairman and CEO of the IEEJ.

Speaking at the 26the World Energy Congress in Rotterdam last week, Terazawa said: “Since 1973, energy security has been the main pillar of Japan’s policy. It currently means access to sufficient volumes of energy at a stable price.

“We have to broaden the concept of these two notions. In addition to conventional energy technologies, we have to talk about access to clean energy technologies such as solar panels, batteries, electrolysers and wind turbines, and access to critical minerals.”

In 2010, a Chinese fishing trawler collided with two Japanese coastguard vessels in the East China Sea, and Japanese officials arrested the captain of the wayward boat. In retaliation, China stopped exporting rare earths to Japan at a time when Tokyo relied on Beijing for 90% of such materials.

Referencing the event, Terazawa said: “Japan encountered the embargo of rare earths back in 2010, so we know how countries may use their control of supply to weaponise critical inputs.”

China still has a tenacious grip on the supply chains of critical minerals. Speaking at the Resourcing Tomorrow 2023 mining conference in December, Michal Meidan, director at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, said: “China’s industrial policies to develop these technologies are decades old and the nation has developed an expansive global presence in the entire value chain of extraction of the [critical mineral] ores overseas.

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“If you look at the supply chains, whether it is EVs [electric vehicles] or batteries, there is a strong China component throughout them. This is in extraction and obviously processing, where China has 80–100% control of some processing supply chains.”