THe Prefecture OF FUkushima and The Region of NORTH RHINE-WESTPHALIA IN GERMANY EXCHANGE BEST PRACTICES ON REGIONAL ENERGY TRANSITION SINCE 2013, ON TOPICS SUCH AS RENEWABLE ENERGY AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY. IN 2017 , TO ACCELERATE THE PARTNERSHIP AND STRENGTHEN ITS INDUSTRIAL DIMENSION BY INVOLVING EXPERTS, LOCAL BUSINESSES, CLUSTERS AND RESEARCH INSTITUTES, AN AGREEMENT WAS SIGNED BETWEEN THE ENERGY AGENCIES OF BOTH REGIONS, FACILITATING B2B ACTIVITIES, BILATERAL EXPERTS WORKSHOPS AND ACCESS TO TRADE FAIRS.
The EnergyAgency.NRW works on behalf of the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia since 1990 as an operative platform with broad expertise in the field of energy: from energy research, technical development, demonstration, market launch and energy consultancy to continuous vocational training. Many of its activities focus currently on energy efficiency and climate protection. The main target groups of the agency are research and science facilities, companies, communities and administrative bodies.
North Rhine-Westphalia was the first German state to adopt binding greenhouse gases reduction targets, a challenge for Germany's most populous region - 17 millions inhabitants -, a well-known industrial heartland and the largest energy producer in the country. Aiming to reduce emissions by at least 80% in 2050 compared to 1990, North Rhine-Westphalia has successfully deployed wind energy and photovoltaics with an installed capacity of nearly up to 6 gigawatts each (2019) and 46.000 jobs created in the renewable energy sector (2018).
The EnergyAgency.FUKUSHIMA works on behalf of Fukushima Prefectural Government as the operative platform to push the regional industrial ecosystem towards large-scale adoption of renewable energy.
Over the past few years after the 2011 disaster, Fukushima Prefectural Government has taken the initiative to achieve the reconstruction and recovery of Fukushima by providing multiple means of action to promote renewable energy. Indeed, renewable energy has been considered by the Fukushima Prefecture as a key for driving the creation of a regional industrial infrastructure. It is working from 2012 towards reducing greenhouse gases emissions by at least 45% by 2030 compared to 2013 and covering with renewable sources 100% of the prefecture’s energy demand by 2040.
In order to address these challenges, EnergyAgency.FUKUSHIMA operates the “Fukushima Renewable Energy Association” to develop collaborative R&D, acts as an incubator for local companies to commercialize new products, organizes and exhibits at trade fairs in Japan and overseas, and supports international collaboration.
The cooperation between the German state of North Rhine Westphalia and the Japanese prefecture of Fukushima in the domain of energy transition finds its roots in 2013 and a visit of Fukushima governor to Germany. At that time, about two years after the Great Tohoku Earthquake and the nuclear accident, the prefecture was looking to find a new way to meet its energy demands and to support the revitalization of its economy. The prefecture decided to look at overseas experience, and found in the European region of North Rhine Westphalia an advanced partner for regional public planning for energy transition.
A first cooperation agreement was signed in 2014 to formally establish the partnership between the two regions, covering the fields of renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage technologies. The agreement was later extended to include the growing topic of hydrogen. Upon suggestion from the German partner to establish on the Japanese side an expert organization for smoother exchanges, EnergyAgency.FUKUSHIMA was created in 2017, on the model of EnergyAgency.NRW. This allowed an acceleration of exchanges, leading up to an official agreement between the two regional energy agencies.
Through their agreement, the agencies support concrete exchanges between local companies from the energy transition sector, through several visits of delegations each year and facilitated participation in regional trade fairs. They also hold bilateral workshops once a year, allowing experts from companies, research institutes and municipalities to share their solutions in sectors such as biomass (2018) and hydrogen (2019). These workshops gave birth to other bilateral agreements, such as the partnership between the universities of Fukushima and Munster to exchange interns working on hydrogen, or the pairing between the cities of Essen and Koriyama to work together on energy transition at urban level.
These various activities allow the agencies to offer B2B matchmaking services for companies, creating opportunities for concrete industrial or business partnerships. Yasuhiro Hattori, managing director of Energy Agency.FUKUSHIMA, reports several successful cases of concrete joint business efforts and development programs initiated thanks to the partnership between the agencies, in sectors such as biomass, energy efficiency and heat pumps. One of them, for instance, allows companies from North Rhine Westphalia specialized in biomass-fueled combined heat and power systems to promote this technology in Fukushima, with local partners.
“With each passing year, our connection has deepened and we have grown closer in ways that neither I nor anyone could have imagined when we launched EnergyAgency.FUKUSHIMA”, comments the managing director of the Japanese agency. Indeed, both regions have now become well-known for demonstrating projects of large-scale hydrogen production, moving away from their past images related to coal or nuclear power.
“The cooperation between Fukushima and NRW is one of the most successful examples for bilateral cooperation on a regional level”, highlights Shikibu Oishi, senior advisor at the Embassy of Germany in Japan. “The Embassy has been supporting the partnership since its beginning and has arranged visits by high-ranking government officials to Fukushima. In June 2019, our State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy visited the Fukushima Renewable Energy Institute in Koriyama and met Governor Uchibori who emphasized the importance of cooperation with Germany.”
In March 2021, the memorandum of understanding between the two agencies was renewed, with the intention to push even further an already rich cooperation.
Photo credits: EnergyAgency.NRW, EnergyAgency.FUKUSHIMA, Unsplash
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