Brazil and Japan, together for the Amazon´ Sustainability

By Jonas Gomes da Silva
April 14, 2023
I thank the Japanese Government for the courteous way in which the authorities, directors and managers treated me during visits to that nation in October 2022, to learn and disseminate the good practices that they are adopting to become a Society 5.0 and decarbonized. This article summarizes the trip and recommends partnerships with Japanese organizations to make Brazilian Amazon Region a better city to live in, smart and sustainable.

In early 2022, I was invited by Mr. Masahiro Ogino, Consul General of Japan in Manaus, to participate in a press conference (online) organized by MOFA, on a topic related to Green Hydrogen and Solar Energy, a manufacturing company installed in Fukushima, whose content was disseminated to the population of Amazonas by through four articles published in Jornal do Comércio do Amazonas.

On February 23, 2022, the same Consulate invited me to participate in a Program by MOFA, in order to dialogue with Japanese officials and experts on topics of interest to the guest, allowing to create connections, have a better understanding of the themes, as well as to publicize the experiences in the guest's home country.

Due the effects of climate change, its threat to humanity, and the effort of several countries to face the problem, especially Japan, the chosen theme was “The green growth strategy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050” with the following sub-themes: Society 5.0; Green Hydrogen; Solar energy; Electric Vehicles and Smart Cities.

The guest had the right to suggest organizations to visit, being informed weekly about the construction of the schedule, whose final version involved scheduling that allowed dialogues, lunch, dinners with officials and specialists from fifteen organizations, Panasonic (Fujisawa Smart and Sustainable City), Hamamatsu Prefecture (Manaus Sister City Smart Digitization Project), Yamaha (Innovation Road Museum), Honda Motor (Transmission Factory), Suzuki (Historical Museum), Smart City Institute Japan, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (I gave a lecture), NEDO (largest public organization promoting research and development for organizations working with industrial and energy projects), JICA (Cooperation Agency Japan International), and Gunma University.

I confess that this was an intense week, a moment when I felt most recognized and valued as a professor and researcher in my entire life, whose information, documents, photos, and articles are already available for society through the website , just choose Japan option, you also can read the report in English or in Portuguese.

In view of the high volume of information, this article focusses on Smart Cities and Green Hydrogen, and the other topics can be read on the mentioned site.

The trip allowed discovering different ways to make the city of Manaus, capital of Amazonas, Brazil, into a smart and sustainable city, in partnership with the following organizations in Japan: First) With JICA, because this agency has specific training on the subject, it has a methodology that allows, together with the representatives of the municipality, to diagnose the main problems of the city, prioritize them, as well as offering technical support to help build and implement projects to the over time, allowing the sharing of knowledge with other cities that have already gone through the experience.

Basically, there are 21 elements in JICA's approach, classified into five dimensions: 1) Policy; 2) Organization; 3) System; 4) Technology and 5) Operation.

However, to start a cooperation agreement of this magnitude with JICA, it can happen in two ways: a) Federal Government of Brazil negotiates with National Government of Japan; or b) Mayor of Manaus initiates negotiations with JICA Managers, presenting formal documentation in which he commits to working with the Agency on the project.

Second) With the Hamamatsu City Hall, as this city is a sister city of Manaus and is implementing its government's digital modernization projects.

Third) With Yokohama City Hall, I particularly enjoyed their experience, as since 2010 they have been transforming the city's energy matrix, optimizing energy use, and reducing carbon emissions, through the use of various technologies and approaches built in a participatory manner, with the population.

Fourth) With Panasonic, as they are successfully implementing smart cities in Japan and beyond.

Fifth) With the Smart City Institute Japan, they offer consultancy to many smart cities in Japan and even to the country's National Government officials. The Institute's Executive has already lived in Brazil and even promised that he could teach a discipline if Amazon Federal University decide to create a master’s course on Smart Cities over time.

In terms of Green Hydrogen, the visit showed that the Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO is a key Organization.

It is linked to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) of the Japanese Government, and works as an innovation accelerator, serving as a link between the Government, Industries, Universities and public research institutes.

Among the programs that could be useful for Brazil, Amazon and Manaus, two are important: Program 1) R&D Program to Promote Innovative Clean Energy Technologies through International Collaboration.

Period: 2020 to 2025 and 2022 budget is in the order of US$ 7 million.

This program supports Japanese research institutes and universities that conduct international joint R&D projects with G20 member institutions and other countries. Private companies can also participate if they are together with universities and research institutions.

The basic scheme involves public call for proposals in Japan by NEDO, submission of proposals by Japanese organizations and, if the project is approved, signing of a joint research contract with foreign organizations that are partners in the project.

Program 2) Program for International Demonstration Projects This disseminates advanced technologies from Japan that can contribute to the environment, safety, economic and energy efficiency by demonstrating them abroad.

Projects can operate in 12 fields, some of which are: 1) Technologies to transform surplus energy; 2) Low-cost hydrogen technologies for both manufacturing, transport, storage, and utilization; 3) CO2 recycling; 4) Sustainable manufacture of biofuels or synthetic fuels; 5) Technologies related to Smart Cities, such as AI, Big Data; 6) Technologies that contribute to decarbonization; 7) Energy efficient technologies, leveraging IoT, AI in homes, businesses and businesses, etc.

This program is operating since 1993 and until 2021, around 96 projects have been completed, of which 5 are mentioned bellow: Project 1: Coal moisture control equipment (93-96) in China, involving Nippon Steel Co. and Chongqing Steel Co., Ltd. and the Ministry of Metallurgical Industry of China.

Project 2: Energy saving model for Fertilizer Factory in Myanmar (2000-2002), involving Chiyoda Corporation, Fertilizer Factory and Ministry of Energy of Myanmar.

Project 3: Model for saving energy in breweries in Vietnam (2003-2005), involving Mayekawa Seisakusho Co., two breweries, one in Hanoi and one in Thanh Hua, as well as the Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Natural Resources and of the Environment. Project 4: Smart community project in the city of Málaga, between 2011 and 2015, involving Mitsubishi and Hitachi, as well as Endesa, Telefónica and Sadiel.

Project 5: Smart community project in Lion, France, between 2011 and 2016, involving Toshiba Co., the City of Lion and the Greater Lion community.

For 2022, the Program´s budget is US$ 46 Million, and the projects and phases to participate are available at https://bit.ly/3hHzMUA.

The phases involve: public call, analysis of the basic study to see if it meets the requirements of the demonstration (Market and Policies on Energy, Business Environment, elements of the demonstration, etc.), analysis of the feasibility of the study (facility of the demonstration, demonstration plan, business plan, discussion with governments and local partners), Demonstration, Follow-Up and Dissemination of good Practices.

When analyzing the list of supported projects, there is no implementation in Brazil, which is regrettable, since a) Brazil and Japan have a long history of exchanges; b) we are home to a huge Japanese community outside of Japan; c) here we have several Japanese organizations; d) we have natural and energy resources, which could be optimized to help decarbonize the planet; e) We have competent researchers and professionals.

Among NEDO most promising investment, that is showing great progress towards revitalizing the industry and the region of Fukushima is a Hydrogen Facility, known as the Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (FH2R), which opened on 7th March 2020.

This plant has an investment of around US$ 180 million and is in the city of Nami, 250 km from Tokyo, it is a pilot project with a duration period between September 2016 and March 2023. Its construction started in August 2018 and was completed in March 2020.

The main characteristics of this project are: (1) to produce CO2-free hydrogen, using renewable energy, contributing to carbon reduction over time; (2) produce large amounts of hydrogen, for example, 1200 Nm3 per hour daily, with the potential to supply 150 homes and 560 cars; (3) carry out the expansion of the use of renewable energy.

Basically, this project became a manufacturing unit with following strategic functions: (1) produce, store, and supply hydrogen; and (2) balancing supply and demand from the electricity grid. To this end, the plant has 18 hectares intended to produce 20 MW of solar energy through photovoltaic panels, as well as 4 hectares intended for producing (10MW electrolyser), storing, and distributing up to 900 tons of hydrogen per year.

The FH2R plant is part of Toshiba's hydrogen business portfolio, implemented in partnership with NEDO, Tohoku Electric Power and Iwatani Corporation. Part of the business model of this venture can be viewed here , and in summary they initially hope to (A) balance the supply and demand of the electricity grid, then (B) produce, store and supply hydrogen, and then (C) combine these two approaches (C=A+B) in order to reduce costs and expand the use of renewable energies in the country.

As a suggestion, this Experimental Project that NEDO financed could be tested in the Brazilian city of Manaus, since it has water and sun in great abundance all year round, as well as having 600 thriving companies in its industrial park, of which at least 32 are from Japan.

To this end, the Brazilian Government in partnership with the Government of the State of Amazonas, and the City Hall of Manaus, could work together to dialogue with Toshiba and other Japanese companies, to build a Project like the FH2R and present it to NEDO, to raise funds and implement in the city of Manaus, considered this year the fifth capital of Brazil with the highest GDP.

Finally, I am deeply grateful to Japan for once again giving me the opportunity to dialogue and learn with public policy makers, managers, and professors. The trip showed that there are many opportunities for cooperation between the two countries, however, they depend on the interest of the Brazilian public power, especially the Government of the State of Amazonas and the City Hall of Manaus, as well as their ability to lead the process on how to make Manaus a smart and sustainable city in a participatory way.
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