300

thousands of tons of the estimated produced hydrogen in Japan

90%

how much the cost is going to be reduced in 2030 compared to 2020

Estimate on how self-reliant Japan is and will be in terms of energy

Hydrogen society in Japan

The discussion on the renewable sources of energy all around the globe  leads to the new initiatives and programs of diversification. Hydrogen is gaining momentum, both as a conventional source of energy as well as in production of the hydrogen cells. It’s one of the energy sources that has the highest net calorific value in relation to its weight. Low density and large volume as well as flammability and explosiveness offer a lot of challenges for the producers and investors. Japan is on the frontline of the new changes and initiatives as a first country striving to introduce ‘the hydrogen society’.

Japan is on the 4th place n the global rankings of energy consumption in the world, next to the United States, China and Russia, despite the major differences in the sizes of their respective populations and territories. Due to its geographical features, Japan does not have enough energy sources to be able to accommodate its needs and relies on the imported oil and gas.

Japan’s energy profile

According to the Nuclear World Association, in October 2020 Japan imported more than 90% of the consumed energy. The discussion about diversification is not new and goes way back. In the 70’s Japan would rely on the oil imported from the Middle East, which in the moment would amount to 50% of its energy. This backfired during the oil crises in 1973, which led to the economic crash and a surging wave of unemployment.

Extensive projects of using the nuclear energy on the large-scale have led to the major structural changes. In 2011 almost 30% of the energy created in Japan was generated in the nuclear reactors. At the time the governmental policy was aiming for 40% in 2017 and 50% in 2030. Nowadays, the tragic aftermath of 2011 tsunami and nuclear crisis in Fukushima made the public more careful and less enthusiastic about it. The reactors are reactivated slowly and many of them did not pass the heightened security checks. Minister of the Environment, Koizumi Shinjiro, son of the Prime Minister Koizumi (2001-2006), was appointed in 2019. He is also a strong voice against the large-scale usage of the nuclear power in Japan.

Japan faced some criticism due to its projects of development of the coal power plants in its territory and beyond it. Pro-coal lobby in the countries where the Japanese companies are present was also deemed controversial. Energy security is also tied to a lot of other crucial issues such as the climate change, geopolitics, reliance and so on. New initiatives were considered.

Basic Hydrogen Strategy

In 2017 Japan introduced the so called ‘Basic Hydrogen Strategy’, infrastructural programs that aims to expand the hydrogen cell technology. In 2019 Fuji Keizai company estimated, that this strategy alone will lead to the major expansion of the hydrogen market in Japan. It’s supposed to grow 56 times and amount to 408.5 billion yen to 2030. A special subgroup is the hydrogen fuel stations which will be worth more than 27 billion yen.

Basic Hydrogen Strategy aims to expand the annual production to the 300 thousand tons. It focuses on the liquid hydrogen and its role in the global supply chains and creating more emission-free ammonia till 2030.

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has highlighted, that Japan needs to reduce the costs of the production to meet the requirements of the Strategy. In 2050 the production is estimated to be 90% cheaper which will make the hydrogen a cheaper alternative to gas. The cost of the energy produced from hydrogen was supposed to be 17 yen/kWh, but it was revised in 2019 to 13 yen/kWh.

Japanese government is supporting all hydrogen production, not only the so called green hydrogen. In 2018 95% of the hydrogen produced all around the globe was tied to the combustion processes. As Japan is striving to reduce the costs and quickly expand the production, it’s also supporting the initiatives based on the so called grey hydrogen. An example of the projects like that is the export program by Kawasaki Heavy Industries to Victoria in Australia planned on the 2020/2021. The production of the green and blue hydrogen on a larger scale is scheduled before 2030.

Revitalization program ‘Fukushima Vision for Promoting Renovable Energy’ introduced in the prefecture aims to create 100% of its energy from the renewable sources such as green hydrogen. In 2016 a new plant  that can create 1.4 gigawatt of energy was established. 925 MW comes from the solar energy. In 2020 Fukushima Prefecture announced that the first milestone of the 40% of the enrgy created from the renewable sources was met.

Between 2018 and 2020 the project ‘Fukushima Energy Research Field’ has led to the establishment of one of the global installations creating the green hydrogen in Namie in Fukushima. It can generate more than 1 200 normal square meters of hydrogen per hour thanks to the solar energy.

Hydrogen market in Japan

Toyota, one of the most prominent players on the market, invests in the hydrogen technology in transportation. In 2019 the ‘SImpleFuel’ generators that create energy from the hydrolysis processes were introduced. In 2020 the so called ‘City of the Future’ was announced. It’s supposed to be fuelled only by hydrogen. First elements of the projects were scheduled for 2021, but it might be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Toyota is also coordinating a series of hydrogen projects in the Chubu region since May 2020.

Toshiba, other leading domestic brand, is investing in the hydrogen cell technology used in the commercial buildings such as hotels and restaurants. It’s also administering the first local supply chain for the hydrogen energy generated by the dams in Hokkaido since 2018.

Idemitsu Kosan produces the semi-finished industrial products and resources such as hydrogenated resin. It’s one of the participants in the projects such as Japan Hydrogen&Fuel Cell Demonstration. Panasonic build houses powered by the hydrogen cells as one of the few companies without the governmental support. Other important and notable players are Aisin Seiki, Denso, Miura, Fuji Elektric, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems etc. Hydrogen fuel stations are also produced by the companies such as Nippon Oil&Energy Company, Idemitsu, Cosmo Oil Co. Some of the most important hydrogen producers in Japan include Iwatani Co., Air Liquide Japan Ltd, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, The Japan Steel Works etc.