Japan views hydrogen and rechargeable batteries as tools to fight climate change

A hydrogen-powered Toyota Sora bus. Toyota is hoping demand for next generation hydrogen vehicles will increase, boosting the number in Tokyo from the current 15 to 100 by next summer. (AFP)
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Updated 14 January 2020

Japan views hydrogen and rechargeable batteries as tools to fight climate change

  • State Minister explained Japan's contribution to fight against climate change at the recent IRENA conference in Abu Dhabi
  • Kenji Wakamiya said Japan was working on using hydrogen and improving rechargeable battery technology

DUBAI: Hydrogen-fueled cars and rechargeable batteries are two of the ways Japan’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs says his country is proposing in the fight against climate change.

Kenji Wakamiya said Japan was working on using hydrogen and improving rechargeable battery technology to create alternative sources of energy, with examples rolled out at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.

“In Fukushima, a hydrogen production facility is scheduled to begin operations this year,” he said, adding that the hydrogen produced from this facility would be used as fuel for vehicles during the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this year.

Wakamiya, who was speaking at the 10th annual assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi, said Japan had “been actively” promoting the use of renewable energy as a major power source, while recognizing Japan as being prone to natural disasters.

“The proportion of variable renewable energy such as solar and wind power has increased tenfold (in Japan) since 2010,” he said, adding how they were able to “overcome the difficult energy circumstances of the Great East Japan Earthquake.”

The Great East Japan Earthquake was a magnitude 9 earthquake off the coast of Japan, believed to have been the fourth most powerful in the world.

“Japan is one of the countries severely affected by climate change, such as the recent devastating damage from storms and floods, and is taking measures against it as an urgent issue,” Wakamiya explained.

The Japanese minister added that the country was aiming to become a completely “decarbonized society as early as possible in the second half of the century.”

He said another important issue was the disposal of renewable energy equipment including “large amounts” of solar panels, wind turbines, and storage batteries that have limited shelf life.

“Considering and tackling the issue of future disposal of such equipment is as important as accelerating the usage of renewable energy if we really care about the environment,” he said.

Japan is leading the way in this field, according to the minister, saying they will “ensure that the reuse, recycling, and proper disposal and treatment of used (renewable energy materials)
are executed.”

In the UAE, Dr. Nawal Al-Hosani, Permanent Representative of the UAE to IRENA, said the Gulf country was prepared to deal with the recycling of such materials.

“The first photovoltaic (PV) farm we have is only 11-years-old. It’s a bit early for us to retire our plants, we are just building them. But every plant we are building, we are pursuing the latest technologies. I’m sure once our plants reach their maturity and they need to be replaced, there will be plans in place to find another use of them,” she said.

“We are talking about very recyclable materials. We have glass, steel, so all the materials and products that have been used to build the PV plants are easily recycled.”

Al-Hosani also described Japan as a “strong partner” for the UAE in its fight against climate change, adding “Japanese companies are very much involved with the UAE leadership on
different technologies.

“There is a lot of partnership with the private sector,” she told Arab News on the sidelines of the IRENA 10th Assembly, where representatives from over 150 countries were discussing the global push for “energy transformation.”

Both countries also agreed on the importance of helping developing countries access renewable energy technology.

“People in remote areas – they find solar panels expensive, but they are actually spending even more in diesel and gasoline,” Al-Hosani said, addressing what she said was a common misconception about renewable energy.

“Once they see the return of investment and look at it on a longer term, they will find out that it’s much less expensive to use renewables,” she added.

“What the UAE is doing to help and support nations with limited to no access to renewable energy is a lot – most of our aid now goes into infrastructure projects. There is a lot of investment and aid fund focused on renewable energy, such as the $50 million Caribbean fund, and $50 million Pacific fund,” she said.

Japan, on the other hand, was also keen on making sure that developing countries would have access to “climate finance.”

“We have implemented technical cooperation through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to support the usage and operation of renewable energy and access to climate finance in developing countries,” Japanese Minister Wakamiya said.

Al-Hosani of the UAE mission to the IRENA said: “More and more donor countries need to understand how they can support developing nations.”

“The UAE has shown an example of ensuring our aid is translated into infrastructure projects, and focused on clean energy to help advance it.”

Google Cloud prepares for Black Friday ‘peak on top of peak’

Updated 04 August 2020

Google Cloud prepares for Black Friday ‘peak on top of peak’

  • Cloud technology, used to host websites and store data, is a key part of many retailers’ e-commerce operations

OAKLAND, California: Alphabet’s Google Cloud unit is poised for a surge in fourth-quarter sales from US retailers, as they brace for record online shopping during the holidays because of COVID-19 lockdowns.
Cloud technology, used to host websites and store data, is a key part of many retailers’ e-commerce operations. As fees are often pegged to site traffic, a jump in activity will drive up revenue for the unit.
Carrie Tharp, vice president of retail and consumer at Google Cloud, said that her team had this year tossed out its linear growth model to predict how many servers it will need to process web orders for retailers around Black Friday.
“We’re planning for peak on top of peak,” she said on Monday. That could be a boon for Google Cloud, which has generated about 30 percent of its revenue during the fourth quarter the last two years.
Stores such as Kohls Corp. and Wayfair Inc. lean on Google months in advance to ensure it has enough servers to withstand increased shopping during holiday discount days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday in November and December.
This year, Black Friday-style demand has flooded shops since March, when the United States began lockdowns, Tharp said.
Holiday shopping is expected to boost demand further, as retailers including Target Corp. and Walmart Inc. have said they will reduce in-store hours because of coronavirus concerns.
Tharp said the pandemic has already benefitted Google Cloud, with some retailers adopting its predictive algorithms years ahead of plan to help them work out the most efficient way of fulfilling orders.
Electronics retailer Best Buy Co., for instance, announced on Tuesday a multi-year deal to centralize customer and product data with Google Cloud to improve its loyalty program and online ad campaigns.
The companies declined to elaborate on the deal, but Tharp said she hopes it leads to Google eventually powering Best Buy’s web ordering system.