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Status Japan

Japan has shown a tremendous economic growth in the post-war period and is now one of the world’s leading industrial countries. The significant growth of Japan’s economy in the 1960s was based on cheap petroleum imports which, however, ceased with the first oil crisis showing the fragility of the country’s energy supply system. Since then alternative energy sources such as nuclear and natural gas as well as measures for energy conservation were rising. Since the end of the 1980s, energy demand began again to increase significantly in the commercial/residential and in the transportation sector (METI 2003). Japan as an island having no exchange of energy with neighboring countries depends heavily on imported energy (84% of the primary energy).

Japanese energy supply in 2001 was approx. 600 M TOE or 2.5*1013 MJ with shares of 49% oil, 13% gas, 13% nuclear, 3% hydro. A fraction of 60% of the energy consumption is non-electric. Energy self-sufficiency is only 4% and 20%, respectively, if nuclear is included (neglecting U imports). The largest share in total electricity production of about 950*109 kWh in 2002 was nuclear power with 31% from 52 units. Others are LNG (27%), oil (10%), hydro (9%), coal (22%), renewables (0.8%). The country’s dependence on coal has increased significantly, which needs to be balanced by improved efficiencies and new fossil fuel technologies. Because of shortage of land, Japan has a preference for large power units with a strong and diverse program.

The commitment made by Japan on the Kyoto conference is a reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 6% below the 1990 level. Targets are planned to be achieved through foresting (-3.9% of GHG target), emission trading (-1.6%), innovative technologies (-2.0%), and others (assuming a +2% from freon emission) (World Gas Conf 2003). Reality, however, looks quite dramatic: instead of a reduction, there was an observed increase by 8% in 1995, and by 12% in 2002. This winds up to the requirement of an 18% GHG reduction by 2008/2012. Measures to help meet this goal are energy savings by the public, strengthened plans for renewables, energy-efficient vehicles and appliances, expanded use of natural gas, and last but not least the construction of 20 (more realistic: 10) new nuclear power plants.

Because of enhanced and actively promoted R&D programs and projects financially supported by the Government, Japan has become a strong player in the development of a hydrogen economy. It is besides the United States the leading country in fuel cell research with large investments by both the Government and the car industries. Since Japan’s transportation sector accounts for 20% of all CO2 emissions, fuels for “clean” FCV were chosen to be methanol and/or compressed H2 gas at present, gasoline reforming in near term, and hydrogen plus advanced storage options in the long term (Fukuda et al. 2005). Targets set by METI: 50 thousand FCV plus 2.2 GW of stationary fuel cells by 2010, 5 million FCV plus 10 GW of stationary fuel cells by 2020, and tentative for the year 2030: 15 million FCV plus 12.5 GW stationary (Fukuda et al. 2005).

The present H2 consumption in Japan is about 162 million Nm3 per year, mainly produced via steam reforming of natural gas. The demand of H2 for the future was assessed by METI’s Agency for Natural Resources & Energy (ANRE) to rise from 7.3*109 Nm3 in 2010 to 54.4*109 Nm3 in 2030 (Nucleonics Week 2005) with by far the largest share dedicated to stationary fuel cells. But it will be only after 2020 that the use of H2 will show its CO2-reducing effect. The number of H2 refueling stations in 2020 has been assessed to be 2300, in an alternative scenario (only pure H2 vehicles) 3300, with production capacities of 100-500 Nm3/h.

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Page last modified on February 18, 2009, at 02:37 PM