Japan to Focus on Decarbonization in Resource Procurement Strategy

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Hydrogen storage tanks are seen in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture.

The government plans to shift the focus of its international resource procurement strategy from fossil fuels such as petroleum and natural gas to hydrogen, rare metals and other next-generation resources.

The new plan is expected to be included in the government’s Strategic Energy Plan, which will be revised before the end of this year, according to sources.

The government is expediting efforts to overhaul the domestic energy framework, aiming to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry will present the plan to an expert panel meeting this month. The ministry also aims to encourage private sector investment in related fields.

The Strategic Energy Plan serves as guidance for the government’s medium-to-long-term policies to secure a stable energy supply. It outlines energy-related issues and risks that Japan is facing and specifies basic measures to address them. The plan is revised about every three years, and the last revision was in July 2018.

In addition to the securing of fossil fuels, the latest revision is expected to include three key pillars in the international resource strategy: Establishing a supply network of hydrogen and ammonia; achieving a stable supply of rare metals; and creating rules on limiting carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and other matters.

Unlike fossil fuels, hydrogen and ammonia do not produce CO2 when they are burnt so they are expected to be alternative fuels for thermal power generation and automobiles.

To reduce CO2 emissions, the electricity used to produce hydrogen must be supplied by renewable energy sources such as solar power. However, it will be difficult to procure most of the hydrogen needed through domestic production.

Japan will aim to secure a stable supply of hydrogen produced overseas in cooperation with the United States, Australia and Middle Eastern nations, among other countries, which can switch to renewable energy with relative ease.

Rare metals are essential for the batteries in electric vehicles, which are expected to become mainstream in the future.

Japan relies on China for most of its rare metals procurement, but political affairs have affected the stability of supply. The government aims to secure access to alternative sources to enhance the competitiveness of the Japanese auto industry.

Japan lacks natural resources, so it will have to rely on fossil fuels such as crude oil for the time being.

As regulations surrounding the use of fossil fuels have been tightened, the government will focus on creating international rules that do not put Japan at a disadvantage. For example, the government will push the international community for recognition of such green initiatives as carbon capture, through which CO2 can be stored in concrete.

Japan’s diplomacy regarding natural resources has so far prioritized securing crude oil, focusing on ensuring a stable supply from Middle Eastern countries and establishing a domestic oil storage system. Given the global trend towards decarbonization, the government is expected to shift its emphasis to securing next-generation resources.