Japanese Investments in Green Technology – An Overview

Posted By Jim Kersey

Most developed nations have pledged vast sums in the coming years to reduce the world’s reliance on fossil fuels and curb the damage caused by climate change.

While some fear that this will hamper economic growth, others are embracing new business models and processes that instead rely on greener technologies. As a nation trying hard to redefine itself as an environmental leader in Asia, we explore some of Japan’s biggest green innovations and initiatives.

Table of Contents

Green Highlights

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has pledged funds to assist Asia reach its zero carbon emission goals, including up to $60 billion in climate finance in 2021 as well as $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund, supporting the transition to decarbonisation in developing countries through innovation and green technology

  • There are over 2.8 thousand solar power plants operating in Japan and the government plans to expand land availability for solar installations, while investing in technology that can facilitate the deployment of agricultural solar farms
  • Hydropower represents Japan’s primary renewable energy source with the highest recorded capacity of electricity generation amounting to over 87 terawatt hours and the land ministry is considering enhancing 570 existing dams across Japan to boost hydroelectric power generation
  • The size of Japan’s smart home market is set to increase to 18 trillion yen by 2040, from 3.9 trillion in 2020
  • Japan ranks 12th in Yale’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI) and 20th in RobecoSAM’s Country Sustainability Ranking

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Scaling Up Hydrogen

Toyota company signage representing major automotive investments in green technology in Japan

Japan was one of the first countries to pursue hydrogen as an alternative energy source and has since invested billions into hydrogen technology over the years.

With its potential application in several sectors such as power generation, industry (e.g. steel), and transportation, it’s considered a key green technology in Japan’s efforts to achieve carbon neutrality. Energy security is also high on the government’s agenda due to the nation’s lack of natural resources within its borders and pressure to see progress in this area is only likely to increase.

Today, Japan has pushed to turn hydrogen into a mainstream fuel for vehicles and plans to commercialize the technology by 2030. While its hydrogen infrastructure has been noted as the largest barrier to wide-scale uptake of hydrogen powered vehicles, the country has the largest hydrogen refueling network in the world and plans to increase this significantly by 2030 as part of its Strategic Roadmap for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells.

Companies like Toyota are now pioneering hydrogen-powered transport with their Mirai EV, which runs on electricity generated by on-board hydrogen fuel cells.

Meanwhile, Japan has opened the world’s largest facility for green hydrogen production from renewables, located in Fukushima. The Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (FH2R) uses a 20MW solar array, backed up by renewable power from the grid to run a 10MW electrolyser.

NEDO and the five partner private-sector companies who set up this project claim it is able to generate up to 100kg of hydrogen an hour and will be used as a test for mass production of green H2, with its initial output used to fuel hydrogen cars and buses in Japan.

Learn How Japan Approaches Environmental Sustainability Today

Carbon Capture

Japanese power plant and carbon emissions representing the need to invest in green technology in Japan

Carbon capture and storage technologies are recognised as vital to the world’s move to achieve climate targets and lowering greenhouse gas emissions, according to agencies such as the International Energy Agency who also published a report outlining the significant role it can play in Asia.

Japan now plays an active role in the Asia CCUS Network, an industry-academia-government platform aimed at promoting CCUS applications throughout Asia. Several Japanese companies, spurred on by governmental support, have been working on ways to increase carbon capturing potential in recent years.

For instance, the Mitsubishi Corporation, in cooperation with several other companies, has developed a type of concrete that absorbs carbon dioxide as it hardens. Known as CO2-SUICOM, this substance traps and stores greenhouse gases, preventing it from entering the atmosphere.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering (MHI) has also developed a solvent called KM-CDR that can capture more than 90 percent of the CO2 from flue gas emitted by power plants, chemical factories and other fossil-fuel-burning facilities.

Learn What Sustainability Means to Japanese Consumers

Electric Vehicles and Hybrids

Electric vehicles and hybrids in Tokyo city representing green technology in Japan

Japanese automakers have pioneered hybrid vehicle technology for years through cars such as the Toyota. However, battery technology and government plans to completely phase out petrol-reliant vehicles are driving a move away from hybrids, which leaves Japan’s role in the EV market uncertain.

While the country says it wants to cut out petrol and diesel cars by the mid-2030s, it is still yet to make a substantial shift to full battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and many are concerned that the nation’s car industry, heavily focused on hybrid car production, won’t be able to compete against other players in this space, such as China.

Japan’s advantage may be in its progress with solid-state batteries, which are more stable and faster to charge than the lithium-ion batteries used today by carmakers like Tesla.

If Japanese manufacturers such as Toyota or Nissan, who have been working on the next generation of batteries for several years now, can produce a commercially viable solid-state battery that presents consumers with an appealing and affordable EV option, the nation could win back its reputation as a leader in eco-friendly car manufacturing.

To help accelerate the development of this green technology in Japan, the government has considered spending a large part of its decarbonization fund in further developing solid-state battery production infrastructure.

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Providing Green Technology Solutions Beyond Japan

Energy company installing solar panel green technology in Japan

Climate change is a global crisis threatening nations around the world and recent actions and statements by Japan have shown that it sees itself as a provider of green solutions in the region.

As progress is made in various areas, such as hydrogen technology development, the hope is that benefits will also be felt by other nations who will be able to utilize and adopt such technology as they strive to achieve their climate change goals.

If you’re a green technology company engaged in market analysis or a foreign brand looking to learn more about Japan’s sustainability landscape, let us know if we can help! There are very exciting things happening here at the moment and we’d be happy to share our insights with you.

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