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Japan’s Efforts in Shaping a Hydrogen Society is Regarded as a “Complete Failure”

published: 2023-02-22 9:30

Japan proposed the first Basic Hydrogen Strategy in the world during December 2017, and is dedicated in establishing a carbon neutral “hydrogen society” by continuously bringing up relevant roadmaps and action plans. However, the Renewable Energy Institute (REI) believes that the country has wasted 70% of its 10-year hydrogen plan on wrong ideas.

Despite constant revisions throughout the past years, REI believes that what Japan needs is a complete reformation, since the country’s hydrogen plan relies on fossil fuels guided by grey hydrogen that could yield a higher level of carbon emission, and impact green hydrogen that is currently at the climbing phase.

Hydrogen is a feasible solution for the energy transformation of aviation, shipping, medium and large transportations, and steelmaking, while Japan’s efforts in promoting hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and household hydrogen ENE-FARM are also one of the reasons behind the country’s stipulation of multiple hydrogen plans. For the JPY 460 billion budget, 70% is estimated to be spent on fuel cell vehicles, hydrogen infrastructures, and residential fuel cells.

The aforementioned factors are obviously important, but it is also not easy in promoting hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and residential hydrogen cells among the public. REI’s report believes that it is considered as a major achievement if even 1/5 of the sales target for residential hydrogen fuel cells is met by 2030, while the sales target of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles may only arrive at 1/40 of the target. The report also believes that the Japanese government’s strategy for fuel cell vehicles has evidently failed.

The report is convinced that the strategy, which fully relies on grey hydrogen before 2030, would yield nearly 6 tons of carbon dioxide for each ton of hydrogen produced through the Haber process, and may also disperse methane that would further exacerbate the degree of warming. Additional carbon dioxide would be emitted if hydrogen is produced using lignite.

Even though it is the easiest method in obtaining hydrogen right now, Japan has yet to have a truly “clean” hydrogen roadmap, and the country has now allowed to categorize blue and grey hydrogen, including carbon capture, as non-fossil fuels, without setting any standards for blue or green hydrogen by regarding all hydrogen as hydrogen with quality.  

Japan’s 5th energy strategy plan asks all methane gas power plants to mix 30% of hydrogen by 2030. The report points out that the emission of greenhouse gas would increase by 10% if grey hydrogen is used over any other hydrogen variations.

Japan, from the perspective of international trades, is also at a pretty bad spot, since other regions are much stricter in hydrogen. The report believes that the country’s domestic green hydrogen industry is currently at a predicament, with merely two companies producing electrolytic baths, and one of them has attained limited production at six times the equipment cost per 1,000 watt compared to its Chinese competitors. Europe and China, in terms of green hydrogen, are ahead of Japan right now.

Green hydrogen is mainly produced through electrolyzed water using renewable energy. However, Japan is low in hydrogen potential due to the restricted administrative procedures imposed on solar and onshore wind power, as well as the public’s general impression. Offshore wind power that is currently at the climbing phase is exorbitant in prices, while nuclear energy that is relatively safe has to endure the public’s criticism and rising cost, which is why Japan is adopting grey hydrogen since it will not be necessarily cheap in producing hydrogen using renewable energy.

As summarized by the report, Japan, should it remain reluctant in amending the above-mentioned hydrogen strategy, may be deprived of potential in hydrogen just like how it did with solar and wind power.

 (Cover photo source: shutterstock)

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