Japan, U.S., E.U. Agree to Cooperate on Hydrogen

On June 18, Japan, the United States, and the European Union released a joint statement on “future cooperation in hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.”  Represented, respectively, by the Ministry of Energy, Trade, and Industry (METI), the Department of Energy (DoE), and the Directorate-General for Energy (ENER), the jurisdictions pledged “to accelerate the development of sustainable hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in the world.”  A central point of agreement in the statement is “the importance of reducing the cost of hydrogen.”

In recent years Japan has often stated its aspiration to serve as a global leader in the development of a hydrogen-based sustainable energy economy.  In December 2018, the country assumed the presidency of the Group of 20 (G20), the international forum that has been described as “the main economic council of wealthy nations.”  In October 2018, in anticipation of its G20 role, the country convened the first-ever “ministerial-level meeting . . . on the realization of hydrogen-powered society.” According to a METI press release, this meeting focused on “obstacles to the realization of a global ‘Hydrogen Society’ and future directions of related policies.”

The ministerial meeting produced the Tokyo Statement which outlines four likely areas of future cooperation.  These include two areas where multilateral effort is clearly needed: “coordination on harmonization of regulations, codes and standards” and R&D on “hydrogen safety and infrastructure supply chain.”  The value that will be created by multilateral action is less obvious for the other two areas: “study and evaluation of hydrogen’s potential across sectors including its potential for reducing both CO2 emissions and other emissions” and “communication, education, and outreach.”

The June 18 joint statement emerged from a meeting “on the sidelines” of the G20 Ministerial Meeting on Energy Transitions and Global Environment for Sustainable Growth, itself one of a suite of meetings held in association with the G20 Summit in Osaka at the end of June.

Downstream from the release of the joint statement, the parties will “explore how to best initiate and implement . . . an effective framework for cooperation.”  A goal is to develop “a memorandum of cooperation (MOC) in preparation for the 2nd Hydrogen Energy Ministerial Meeting which will be held [in Tokyo] on September 25th, 2019.”  It is not clear if the MOC will speak to practical aspects of hydrogen economy implementation such as the use of ammonia as an energy vector.

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