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Leaders of Three Research Institutes from Japan, the U.S., and Germany Discuss RD20 Research Institutes Aroundthe World Unite to Achieve Carbon Neutrality

 To promote clean energy technologies and transition to a carbon-neutral society, it is essential for leading research institutes around the world to share their research and knowledge and pursue collaboration. The G20 countries and regions account for the majority of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Research institutes that develop cutting-edge technologies are expected to expand their research alliances and reinforce international collaboration, including joint research and development.

 "RD20: Research and Development 20 for clean energy technologies" is an international conference organized by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), where representatives and experts from key research institutes and industries from G20 countries and regions gather to discuss international joint research and social implementation.

 Kazuhiko Ishimura, President of AIST, the organizer of RD20, and the heads of two RD20 member institutes, namely, Martin Keller, Director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the U.S., and Hans-Martin Henning, Director of Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) of Germany, held an online discussion between Japan and Germany.

 The three leaders discussed their institutes’ efforts to solve the common challenge of achieving carbon neutrality through the widespread use of clean energy, reaffirmed the importance of RD20 as a forum for the world’s research institutes to co-create and share knowledge, and promised to cooperate for the 4th RD20, which will be held in October, 2022.

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RD20 to be a forum for leading
research institutes

from G20 countries and regions
to share expertise
on carbon neutrality

——The transition to a carbon-neutral society is crucial to solving the problem of global warming and other issues brought on by climate change. Could you tell us about the purpose of holding RD20 and what has been achieved so far?

Ishimura RD20 is an international conference initiated by Japan at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting at Davos in January 2019, where then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe invited top-class experts from G20 countries and regions to cooperate in accelerating innovation from the perspective of addressing climate change and to promote international collaboration. Organized by AIST, the event has been held annually since 2019.

Mr. Kazuhiko Ishimura

National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology
President and CEO
Mr. Kazuhiko Ishimura

Joined Asahi Glass Company (now AGC. Inc) in 1979, President and CEO in 2010, Chairman in 2015, Deputy Representative Director of Japan Association of Corporate Executives from 2018, President of AIST in April 2020 (current position)

 G20 countries and regions, which account for the majority of global CO2 emissions, are expected to lead innovation to achieve carbon neutrality and facilitate the transition to clean energy. The conference aims to play a role in enhancing research alliances among leading research institutes in G20 countries and regions that are developing cutting-edge technologies, strengthening international collaboration including joint R&D, and supporting the capacity building of young human resources.

 The third RD20, held in October 2021, was attended by 24 research institutes from 20 countries and regions. To reinforce international collaboration, we established a task force responsible for setting up projects. At the Leaders Session, attended by the heads of institutes, comprehensive discussions were held on long-term and cross-cutting issues toward the realization of a carbon-neutral society. The Leaders Statement for further enhancement of international collaboration was compiled, which is an enormous achievement.

 We hope that RD20 will be of interest to a wide range of people, including researchers conducting frontline research, young researchers who will lead the next generation, industry, the financial sector, and government.

——What do you think can be done to make international collaboration at RD20 meaningful?

Keller Above all, I am grateful to Japan for organizing an international conference like RD20.
 I feel that RD20 has three important roles to play.

Dr. Martin Keller

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
Director
Dr. Martin Keller

Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Regensburg, Germany; joined Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), USA in 2006; Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2013; Director of NREL in 2015; President of Alliance for Sustainable Energy (current position)

 The first is to provide a forum for collaboration and the sharing of challenges and expertise at RD20, where the world’s leading researchers gather. The problem of global warming is too large for one country or research institute alone to solve. It is very important for the world to work together.

 The second role is to promote the development of human resources and increase interest in research and collaboration so that the next generation of young scientists and students are encouraged to take part in solving problems.

 The third is to promote the spread of clean energy and carbon-neutral technologies by involving industry as well as research institutes. It is crucial that research institutes identify technologies that avoid the risks of climate change, and work with industry to accelerate the deployment of the technologies toward carbon neutrality.

Henning I am pleased to have this opportunity to cooperate in promoting RD20, albeit in the form of an online meeting.

Dr. Hans-Martin Henning

Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE), Germany
Director
Dr. Hans-Martin Henning

Ph.D. in Physics from University of Oldenburg, Germany in 1993; joined Fraunhofer ISE in 1994; Professor at Karlsruhe Institute for Technology, Germany in 2014; Director of Fraunhofer ISE in 2017 (current position)

 To confront the challenge of global warming, it is essential to collaborate not only with the countries and regions participating in RD20 but also with other countries and regions. While Europe is making progress in the development of environment-related technologies and research, we need to establish technologies that allow countries and regions around the world to work together to produce green power in countries and regions with high renewable energy potentials, and transport it in the form of hydrogen (H2) or its derivates to countries and regions with significant energy demands.

 Also, a future vision for energy technology and utilization should be drawn up in RD20 and linked to policy making for social implementation. Co-creation with industry is also critical to disseminate the technologies researched and developed to society.

Sharing of results and findings
from ongoing

carbon-neutral R&D
studies at each institute

——Would you please introduce the efforts of your respective institutes toward carbon neutrality?

Ishimura AIST established the Global Zero Emissions Research Center (GZR) in 2020. Led by GZR, and in collaboration with other institutes including Fukushima Renewable Energy Institute (FREA) of AIST, established in 2014, we are conducting a wide range of activities from basic research to proof of concepts for the realization of carbon neutrality.

 Carbon neutrality cannot be achieved with a single technology alone; it is crucial to integrate technologies and knowledge. In addition to developing renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal power generation; H2 utilization technologies for the transport and storage of renewable energy; artificial photosynthesis that can directly produce various chemicals using solar energy; and e-fuel, a synthetic fuel using H2 derived from renewable energy; we are also conducting research in the areas of social system design and evaluation methods related to these technologies.

 Negative emission technologies are also essential to achieving carbon neutrality. As well as research on "BECCS" (bioenergy with carbon capture and storage), which combines the use of biomass energy with CO2 capture and storage, and innovative biomass CO2 utilization technology with increased carbon fixation, we are also working on technology to fix CO2 in natural minerals such as basalt by integrating our strengths in geology and energy.

Keller NREL's strategy for clean and equitable energy centers around three critical objectives. First, based on the concept of "Integrated Energy Pathways", we aim to develop clean energy and renew the electrical grid, as well as to use clean power for power transportation, homes, and office buildings, and to make the power sector carbon neutral by strengthening the security and resilience of the electrical grid. The current grid architecture will be redesigned and power will be controlled in a different way compared to the past.

 Next is "Electrons to Molecules", which is the so-called "Power to Fuel" concept. Hydrogen generated from renewable energy is critical for cross-sector coupling connecting electricity and chemical energy. It can also be reacted with CO2 to produce methane (CH4) or dence hydrocarbon fuel with nitrogen (N2) to produce green ammonia (NH3), and can also be used in the production of industrial products and materials. Hydrogen is expected to play a role as a medium for transporting electricity in the future. We have high hopes for "e-fuels", produced by synthesizing H2 and CO2 from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.

 In "Circular Economy for Energy Materials", we are developing sustainable materials and systems with low CO2 footprints that improve the recyclability of products for the transition from a linear economy to a circular, oriented-society For example, lithium-ion batteries, which are widely used as compact and lightweight rechargeable batteries, are a technology for which Dr. Akira Yoshino, Director of AIST-GZR, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2019; these batteries play an essential role as a storage battery for renewable energy power storage. The technology also contributes to the miniaturization and weight reduction of a wide range of electrical devices such as cell phones and laptop computers; however, the reuse of the lithium alloys necessary to manufacture the batteries has not been widely considered. We need to consider recycling technologies for the resources required for energy storage from an early stage.

Henning Beside working on technologies for using renewable energies such as solar and wind, one of Fraunhofer's key activities is conducting research to advance automated control of increasingly complex energy systems through digitalization. The development of hydrogen with renewable electrocity and of green fuels that do not emit CO2 is a not only of high importance for the energy sector but will lead to a transition in chemical industries, and replace current plastics with green materials that do not use fossil resources. We are in the process of not only working to eliminate CO2 emissions in the power sector, but also creating a sustainable, circular economy that makes efficient use of limited mineral resources such as rare earths as well as the global environment.

——What do you think about the areas in which the research institutes can co-create and how they should collaborate?

Ishimura We are working in the same direction and feel that we can collaborate in a variety of areas. In particular, standardization and evaluation methods related to negative emissions and new technologies would be areas where international collaboration would be easier.

Keller Expanding carbon neutrality on a global scale is a race against time. It is very important to share research results and findings from each country and discuss how to quickly disseminate promising technologies.

 For example, today I had the opportunity to visit Fraunhofer ISE in Germany. Here, research is underway to use NH3 as a medium to store H2 and use it as fuel. Ammonia as fuel would not emit CO2, however, in addition to managing toxicity issues and oxidation reaction associated with NH3 combustion that generates nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are air pollutants, must be managed. How to overcome important issues such as these, and how to utilize the intellectual property for research and disseminate results to society are also issues to be addressed.

Henning The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) plays a very important role in collecting useful scientific research for policy-making on climate change. Similarly, RD20 will be a forum for research institutes to gather to discuss and share information on global warming issues and specific responses to climate change. RD20 can also play a major role in encouraging the introduction of advanced technologies not only in countries and regions participating in RD20, but also in other countries and regions around the world.

Mr. Kazuhiko Ishimura

Carbon neutrality is a
great opportunity for companies

Aim for societal impact by collaborating
with research institutes

——We feel that the private sector, including companies and research institutes, has a significant role in addressing the huge challenge of carbon neutrality.

Ishimura Carbon neutrality is, of course, an initiative to achieve SDG Goal 13, "Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts". Nowadays the industrial and financial sectors are increasingly using carbon neutrality initiatives as the basis for investment decisions, and it has become a differentiating factor for companies.

 I myself used to manage Asahi Glass Company (now AGC Inc.), and I see a great business opportunity for companies to become carbon neutral, not as a cost factor as in the past, but with the potential to create a significant economic and societal impact. Dr. Yoshino, Director of AIST-GZR, also emphasized this point. While this dialog session aims to encourage the private sector to take carbon-neutral initiatives, it is also important for RD20 to encourage the industrial sectors of each country to do the same.

 When private companies pursue carbon neutrality as part of their business, they can have a significant impact on society and create change. Private companies must also make an effort. As a research institute that supports Japan’s industrial sector, AIST will fully support companies trying to create new innovations in this field.

Keller Carbon neutrality cannot be achieved on the needed scale and pase through the efforts of research institutes alone.
NREL is pursuing collaboration with a very wide range of companies, from startups to large enterprises such as electric power companies. We can make a societal impact by helping companies make business decisions toward achieving carbon neutrality, and contributing to their business expansion.

 For example, NREL is conducting "LA100 (The Los Angeles 100% renewable energy study)", a study that aims to power 100% of Los Angeles, a major city in the U.S., solely by renewable energy. There are still many unknowns, such as whether hydrogen, biofuel, or carbon-neutral liquefied natural gas is the best fuel to run gas turbines. It is necessary to cooperate with the private sector to proceed with the implementation of carbon-neutral technologies.

Henning The mission of Fraunhofer Institute is to transfer the results of research and development to industry. We have for instance been integrating new technologies developed at the institute into manufacturing equipment for use in the manufacturing sector. We do not yet know the mix of solutions, e.g. the mix between direct electrification versus green hydrogen and fuels, which will be applied to achieving carbon neutrality in the future. It is all the more important to continue to contribute to industries through providing research results and findings from our research activities.

 Companies are increasingly leaning towards going carbon neutral. It will be necessary to find the best cost-effective solutions that will contribute to climate neutrality in the future. Without collaboration and cooperation with business and industry, we will never overcome the great challenge of achieving carbon neutrality and realizing a transition to a sustainable economy and society.

Ishimura Many countries have set a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, but carbon neutrality cannot be realized by the efforts of just one research institute or just one country. International collaboration is the key. RD20 is a very important framework for a global approach to realizing carbon neutrality.

 The three research institutes that are represented here today have had a long history of trilateral cooperation, which started in the area of solar power generation. Through RD20, we hope to use our experience and past collaborations to lead to a broader and more fruitful co-creation.

 RD20 is reinforcing the building of new partnerships among stakeholders, including industry, academia, and government, to promote international collaboration in clean energy technology.

 Let’s do this together.

On the occasion of RD20

Carbon neutrality, a universal challenge of which solutions are sought out globally, can be an attractive business opportunity for companies.

 I hope such a perspective will attract attention from industry in the activities of RD20 and AIST GZR, that are working together with the international community to achieve carbon neutrality.

Dr. Akira Yoshino

Dr. Akira Yoshino

Director of the Global Zero Emissions Research Center, AIST

Joined Asahi Kasei Corporation (now Asahi Kasei Corp) in 1972; Honorary Fellow in 2017; Nobel Prize in Chemistry from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 2019; Fellow and Director of the Energy and Environment Global Zero Emissions Research Center, AIST in 2020 (current position)

Announcement of RD20 Next Meeting

The 4th RD20
International Conference Leaders’ Session
Date/Thursday, October 6, 2022
Venue/Tokyo Prince Hotel

Related Links

Results of the 3rd RD20 (FY2021)

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