The Yomiuri Shimbun --The Yomiuri ShimbunThe government is initiating a project to produce hydrogen on a massive scale in Fukushima Prefecture, with the ultimate goal of creating a hydrogen energy-oriented society.
According to the “Fukushima plan for a new energy society” announced on Sept. 7, the government intends to enable large-scale production of hydrogen in the prefecture, which will become a model district, by utilizing renewable energy such as wind power. The prefecture’s power grid will be expanded to increase the use of renewable energy.
The plan was compiled and determined by a joint public-private sector conference held in Fukushima city. It involved the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry; the Reconstruction Agency; utility companies and other entities. Relevant ministries have requested expenditure of ¥75.4 billion in the government’s fiscal 2017 budget to carry out the project.
Hydrogen is drawing attention as a next-generation energy source because it does not emit carbon dioxide when used as fuel to generate electricity.
However, carbon dioxide is emitted when the hydrogen production process involves fossil fuels such as natural gas or petroleum. — the most common method of hydrogen production today. The plan aims to establish a new method in which renewable energy plays a greater role and carbon dioxide emissions are kept to a minimum.
According to the plan, the government will assist construction of power lines along the coast and in the mountainous regions to make Fukushima Prefecture a major operational base for renewable energy, such as wind and solar power.
The government has set a target of producing an amount of hydrogen equivalent in volume to what 10,000 fuel-cell vehicles would consume a year by 2020. The government intends to supply hydrogen for use in fuel-cell vehicles from the prefecture to Tokyo during the Olympics and Paralympics.
However, promoting the spread of hydrogen as a new energy source will not be easy. Fuel-cell vehicles, which use hydrogen, cost more than ¥7 million. Accordingly, users are limited to government agencies and the wealthy. As of the end of 2015, only about 400 such cars had been sold.
Because of the high costs, the move to large fuel-cell vehicles such as buses and trucks has also been slow.
The reality today is that demand for hydrogen depends on how prevalent fuel-cell vehicles become.
Currently, there are about 32,000 gas stations in operating across the nation and only about 80 hydrogen fuel stations.
Steps toward making fuel-cell vehicles more user-friendly by expanding the hydrogen supply network are called for.