Masatoshi Akimoto, once a fervent supporter of renewable energy within the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), has suffered a dramatic fall from grace due to bribery accusations. Tokyo prosecutors launched a raid on Akimoto’s residence and offices, suspecting that he received ¥30 million from Japan Wind Power Development between 2021 and this year, under the pretense of funding a horse-related endeavor. As a horse enthusiast, Akimoto and Japan Wind Power Development President, Masayuki Tsukawaki, established a horse owner association in October 2021, each holding a 45% share.
However, prosecutors allege that the money was, in fact, a bribe aimed at gaining favor for the offshore wind power company, a field of particular interest to Akimoto. Notably, during October 2022, Tsukawaki supposedly handed over ¥10 million to Akimoto in his parliamentary office, just after the government revised evaluation standards for selecting firms interested in offshore wind projects.
Tsukawaki has denied any involvement in bribery, but Akimoto’s reputation as a strong advocate for renewable energy, especially wind power, has been tainted. He was also known for his vocal opposition to nuclear energy, a stance that set him apart from fellow LDP politicians.
Akimoto’s dedication to renewable energy dates back several years. While serving as a parliamentary vice minister at the land and transport ministry between August 2017 and October 2018, he played a key role in drafting legislation, enacted in November 2018, to promote offshore wind power.
In his 2020 book, which advocated for the elimination of nuclear power and the expansion of renewables to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, Akimoto acknowledged that his views were not aligned with the mainstream thinking of the LDP. He staunchly opposed the construction of new nuclear reactors, asserting that wind power held significant potential.
Taro Kono, the digital minister and another proponent of transitioning away from nuclear power, praised Akimoto in promotional material for the book, hailing him as the leading LDP member pushing for nuclear power phase-out.
Akimoto shared a close relationship with former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and belonged to a group of young lawmakers called Ganesha no Kai, who supported him. In October 2020, Suga declared Japan’s commitment to achieving zero carbon emissions by 2050 and reducing carbon emissions by 46% compared to 2013 levels by 2030.
Although the Cabinet and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida approved a plan in October 2021 to have 36% to 38% of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2030, it was initially drafted during Suga’s tenure in July.
Akimoto assumed the position of foreign affairs vice minister in August 2022, following Kishida’s Cabinet reshuffle. That same month, Kishida unveiled his green transformation policy, which included efforts to restart dormant nuclear reactors and pursue new nuclear technologies—positions that directly clashed with Akimoto’s stance.
Despite the turmoil surrounding Akimoto, Japan remains committed to the promotion of offshore wind power development, aiming to achieve 10 gigawatts of capacity by 2030 and between 35 GW and 45 GW by 2040. However, reaching these targets will require considerable effort, considering Japan had less than 1 GW of offshore wind power capacity in 2022.
While Akimoto’s current issues are not anticipated to impede the medium- and long-term development of offshore wind power, uncertainties loom over the short-term capacity ramp-up.