Widespread use of hydrogen energy essential for decarbonized society

The Yomiuri ShimbunAlthough the government views next-generation hydrogen energy as the most viable means of ushering in a decarbonized society, promoting the full-scale spread of that energy will be an arduous task. The public and private sectors should make even greater efforts to achieve this.

Hydrogen does not generate carbon dioxide when it is burned, and only discharges water. It can be extracted from various resources, such as natural gas. Hydrogen also can be produced through electrolysis of water, so it will not run out.

Hydrogen can be a valuable source of energy for resource-poor Japan.

Japan is said to possess the world’s highest level of hydrogen-related technology. If Japan takes the lead in the spread of hydrogen, it will lead to our nation exporting the social infrastructure necessary for the utilization of hydrogen. Extending policy-based support is important in this respect.

In its basic energy plan last year, the government stated that hydrogen is an option that ranks with renewable energy.

In April, the government devised a long-term strategy, based on the Paris Agreement, an international framework for preventing global warming, while also designating the utilization of hydrogen as one of its main pillars. The government has said that it will bring down greenhouse gas emissions in this country to effectively zero at an early time in the latter part of this century.

Under the circumstances, however, there is a high hurdle to the full-scale use of hydrogen.

In 2014, Toyota Motor Corp. released a hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle, the world’s first FCV for the general market. However, only about 3,000 FCVs are currently used in Japan.

FCVs are expensive, and there are only about 100 stations for supplying hydrogen in the country. This inconvenience has resulted in the lack of an increase in FCV sales, leading to delays in building hydrogen stations. FCVs are caught in this vicious cycle.

Convince public of safety

In March, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry unveiled a road map for the spread of hydrogen and fuel cells. The road map cited the goal of increasing the number of FCVs in use to about 200,000 and the number of hydrogen stations to 320, as early as 2025.

Although the ministry has said it will promote deregulation aimed at lowering FCV prices and permitting more self-service hydrogen stations to be set up, the goal will not be easy to achieve.

It is advisable to find a means of breaking the stalemate by using FCVs for such commercial purposes as fixed route buses and delivery trucks. Commercial-use FCVs can be efficiently operated by building hydrogen stations at bases for such vehicles.

If hydrogen energy can be used for large-scale power generation, it will come closer to the realization of a full-fledged “hydrogen society.” However, some technical tasks remain to be carried out, such as the development of a burner suited to the peculiarities of hydrogen.

Hydrogen has an image as highly explosive. Efforts should be made to gain the understanding of the public about the safety of hydrogen and the significance of utilizing it. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, part of the electricity to be used at the athletes’ village will be provided through fuel cells. The village will likely serve as a perfect spot for displaying the possibilities of hydrogen domestically and internationally.

Construction of a hydrogen-producing factory is progressing in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture. Spurred by the “reconstruction Olympics,” it is hoped, related industries will be fostered and regional vitalization promoted.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 5, 2019)Speech


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