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Japan

Energy Sector:Offshore Wind, Hydrogen

Category:Countries with Cooperation Agreements

Region/Province:Fukushima

Japan is one of the leading industrial nations with innovative renewable energy technologies and one of the world’s largest consumers of energy. Over the past decades, Japan has made notable achievements in installing renewable energy capacities. In 2022, renewables made up of about 22% of the whole power generation. At the same time, renewable energy development is considered highly challenging due to limited land, lengthy approval process and expensive project development. Under the new strategic energy plan, the Japanese government pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. To meet this goal, renewable energy must account for about 40% of the country’s electricity mix by 2030.

The nuclear disaster in Fukushima has triggered an extensive rethinking and redesigning of the energy future both at national and regional level. Fukushima is among all regions a forerunner in renewable energy. By the end of 2020, the share of renewables in Fukushima was 43%, almost double the national level. To support the reconstruction from the nuclear disaster and move forward towards a new energy society, the local government has taken many steps to accelerate the expansion and use of renewable energies, in particular to focus on developing hydrogen economy. Furthermore, Fukushima aims to become a regional hub for renewable energy research center. The Fukushima Prefecture has formulated “the plan for new energy society” with the ambition of powering the whole region with 100% renewable energy by 2040.

Wind Energy

As of 2022, Japan has installed 5,1 GW of wind power capacity. Offshore wind today still accounts for a fraction, with just 136 MW. The Japanese government recognizes that offshore wind can become a major source of support to reach its net-zero target and decarbonize the heavy industry. Hence, it has launched various policies and initiatives to drive the deployment of wind energy forward. For example, Japan introduced its first offshore wind power vision in 2020, which is targeting 10 GW by 2030 and 30-45 GW by 2040.

Japan has considerable offshore wind resources, especially in the north of the country with most of the potential in deep waters. The Global Offshore Wind Council estimates that Japan has a potential for around 128 GW of capacity for fixed-bottom projects and 424 GW for floating offshore wind. European and international players have realized the attractiveness of Japan’s wind market. Japan can take advantage of the technology advance and cost improvements in offshore wind industry and draw from lessons and experiences of European countries in all aspects of offshore wind, from regulation designing, permitting process to financial incentives. EEHH’s member RWE has been selected in a consortium together with Mitsui and Oska Gas to deliver a 684MW commercial-scale offshore wind project off the coast of the cities of Murakami and Tainai, Niigata Prefecture. The bottom-fixed offshore wind farm is to be commissioned in June 2029 and will consist of 38 wind turbines.

Japan’s journey to building the offshore wind industry will also face challenges. The complex and mountainous terrain, the coastal deep waters, earthquakes and typhoons require expert knowledge and suitable technology to make use of the wind resources.

Hydrogen

Japan developed the world’s first national hydrogen strategy. It has been revised in 2023 that is intended to attract public and private investments in hydrogen totaling 15 trillion yen over the next 15 years and boost the hydrogen supply to 12 million tonnes per year by 2040 – a sixfold increase from the current level. The updated strategy also set outs the target that Japanese companies should secure 10% share of the global electrolyzer market. Moreover, it formulates a pathway to low-carbon hydrogen, aiming for 3.4kg of CO2 emissions or less for 1kg of hydrogen produced. The hydrogen strategy sees the following categories as main strategic areas:

  • Hydrogen supply (hydrogen production, construction of hydrogen supply chain)
  • Decarbonized power generation
  • Fuel cells
  • Direct use of hydrogen (decarbonized steel, decarbonized chemicals, hydrogen-fueled vessels)
  • Utilization of hydrogen compounds (fuel ammonia, carbon recycling products)

From the energy industry, transport sector to heavy-industry, they all have committed to a climate-neutral economy. The Japanese government recognizes the urgency to provide industries and companies with incentives for green transition and will provide public funding for technologies and infrastructure to build up the hydrogen value chain, ensure stable supply and reduce the generation and supply costs for hydrogen.

Unlike in Europe and Germany, where hydrogen will be “colored” according to the type and technology of the production, carbon intensity will be the main criterion for the establishment of the hydrogen supply chain and the development of associated infrastructure. The threshold of clean hydrogen and clean ammonia is defined respectively as 3.4kg of CO emissions per kg of hydrogen and 0.84kg of CO emissions per kg of ammonia. Green hydrogen, which is produced from renewable sources, will be the long-term goal in Japan. However, to ensure a sufficient supply by 2030, hydrogen produced using fossil fuels will make up the lion’s share. Japan sets the priority on initiating the use of hydrogen to decarbonize the energy production.

The Japanese-German Energy Partnership

In June 2019, Germany and Japan agreed to further strengthen their bilateral cooperation for a successful energy transition. The established Energy Partnership will allow a fruitful and mutually beneficial exchange on innovation, digitization, and flexibility in the field of renewable energies, grid modernization and the use of hydrogen.

Within the energy partnership, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs, the Japanese Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) have jointly adopted a roadmap which decided the establishment of two working groups among other things. The working group “energy transition” comprises renewable energy and energy efficiency and the second one is dedicated to hydrogen and covers all aspects of the production, distribution, and use of this technology.

In 2018 and 2019, EEHH and the city of Hamburg have respectively signed a Memorandum of Understanding with EnergyAgency.Fukushima (EA.F) and Prefecture Fukushima with the aim of cooperating in the area of renewable energy and to support the market entry and business activities of companies in both regions. As part of the renewal of the municipal MoU in April 2023, hydrogen has been included as new focus area for collaboration.

The offshore wind development in Japan achieved a milestone as the Japan’s first large-scale offshore wind farm Hoshiro Port with 20 fixed-bottom 4.2 MW turbines, begun producing electricity in December 2022. In the second neighboring site Akita Port, another 13 wind turbines are expected to be commissioned in 2023. Combined, the two wind farms can generate up to 140 MW of green electricity, enough to power around 130,000 Japanese households.