Arab News Japan
The nexus of the energy transition, energy security, and geopolitical competition in Asia and the Middle East is becoming critical for Japan more than ever, a leading Japanese energy economist told a symposium recently.
Dr. Amane Kobayashi, a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Energy Economics (IEEJ), Japan, was delivering a Japan and Asia perspective on the new technologies and the future of fossil fuels at the e-symposium, The Future of Energy and Sustainability, organized by TRENDS Research & Advisory.
Kobayashi said that fossil fuels would matter for Asia in the long-term, and estimates suggest that the demand for crude oil in greater Asia would double in 2050 compared to 2020. Only the Middle East could be the major and stable supplier.
“Despite that, with the geopolitical uncertainty in the Middle East, energy security for Japan and Asia is becoming increasingly threatened, as they heavily rely on the oil and gas supply from the region,” he said.
He said that Japan is keen to develop new energy technologies for a carbon-neutral society and published the first hydrogen and fuel cell strategy in 2014 involving the private sector.
“Recently, it’s focusing on building a global hydrogen supply chain by enhancing relationships with resource-rich countries. Therefore, Japan is accelerating cooperation with the oil and gas-producing countries, including the Middle East, not only to import fossil fuels but also to lead future hydrogen society,” Kobayashi said.
Kobayashi also said that transnational connectivity is going to be important going forward. Since Japan is isolated geographically, it should develop its own grid but when we look at Asia, Middle East, or Latin America, there is a lot of opportunity for the transnational grid and other energy networks,” he said.
However, he also said that international politics is likely to prevent such a thing from happening. Kobayashi said Japan’s energy policy has been struggling with the imbalance of 3E+S (energy security, economic efficiency, environment, and safety).
“Its energy self-sufficiency rate is around 10 percent, second least in the OECD countries, since most nuclear power plants have halted after the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami while it imports most fossil fuels including crude oil, natural gas, and coal,” he said.
For this reason, Japan has been leading the development of renewable energy and energy conservation technologies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.