Social Issues addressed by Sumitomo —Compass for the Future—

Nippon Sheet Glass × Decarbonization & Climate change

Committed to achieving carbon neutrality through carbon reduction in manufacturing processes and transition to renewable energy

 Decarbonization
Among greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions implicated in global warming, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are a major culprit. Hence the importance of initiatives to reduce CO2 emissions in the drive to achieve net zero GHG emissions, i.e., carbon neutrality. In order to limit the global average temperature increase and achieve net zero GHG emissions in the second half of the 21st century, which are among the goals of the Paris Agreement, the Japanese government set a target of a 26% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 compared with 2013. In October 2020, the then-prime minister declared that Japan intends to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. At the Leaders Summit on Climate, hosted by the U.S. in April 2021, Japan declared its target of a 46% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 compared with 2013. In addition to reducing CO2 emissions in the manufacturing process, Nippon Sheet Glass (NSG Group) is endeavoring to decarbonize operations at its facilities by transitioning to electricity derived from renewables.
 Climate change
Countermeasures for global warming, the phenomenon driving climate change, center on the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and management to prevent disasters or mitigate their impacts. The Paris Agreement, adopted at the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in 2015, following the Kyoto Protocol, reaffirmed the goal of limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2oC while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5oC compared to pre-industrial levels. Accelerating global warming is implicated in extreme weather events that pose serious risks for companies. Accordingly, companies need to formulate strategies and implement specific countermeasures from a medium to long-term perspective.

Molten glass glowing brightly red in a scorching hot brick-lined furnace. Although this image typically comes to mind when people think about glassmaking, the energy-intensive glass manufacturing process is about to change. Nippon Sheet Glass (NSG Group) is doing its utmost to introduce new low-carbon fuels as replacements for the fossil fuels, such as heavy oil and natural gas, currently used for melting raw materials in glassmaking, in order to slash CO2 emissions in the glass manufacturing process. In addition to measures targeting the manufacturing process, the company is also active in introducing renewable energy and developing glass products that contribute to energy saving.

Silica sand is the principal raw material of glass. Since the melting temperature of silica sand alone is too high, soda ash is added to lower the melting temperature, and limestone is added to reduce its solubility in water. To melt these materials, the melting furnace is heated to a high temperature, approximately 1,600℃. And to prevent the glass from hardening, the melting furnace must be kept at a constant high temperature. This traditional glass manufacturing process is ripe for decarbonization by switching from conventional fossil fuels to green alternatives.

Float glass manufacturing process.
Raw materials introduced into the melting furnace are heated to a high temperature.
Molten glass floats on molten tin in the float bath and float glass is manufactured.

In the world’s first, in August 2021, NSG Group conducted a demonstration experiment of glass manufacturing powered by hydrogen at its plant in the UK, and succeeded in producing architectural flat glass 6 x 3 meters in size. This confirmed that hydrogen can achieve the same excellent melting performance as conventional fuels and has the potential to slash CO2 emissions from melting furnaces used in glassmaking. Nevertheless, the study also highlighted issues related to cost and the lack of infrastructure for hydrogen supply.

In quest of low-carbon fuels that could be used during the transition period prior to the full-scale introduction of zero-carbon energy sources such as hydrogen, a demonstration experiment of float glass manufacturing using 100% biofuel was conducted in February 2022. In this experiment led by Glass Futures, a UK-based research and technology organization of which NSG Group is a member, approximately 15,000 m2 of float glass was successfully manufactured. It was confirmed that biofuel emits 80% less CO2 compared to natural gas, which is currently the principal fuel used in the UK, suggesting that CO2 emissions from the glass manufacturing process could be greatly reduced even before zero-carbon options are developed and put into practical use.

Furnace powered by biofuel. Councillor Mancyia Uddin, St Helens Borough Council’s Climate Change Champion, visited NSG’s Greengate Site.

In addition to reducing CO2 emissions in the manufacturing process, NSG Group is endeavoring to decarbonize the operations at its facilities by transitioning to electricity derived from renewables. In January 2022, the company became the first glass manufacturer operating in Poland to sign a 10-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for renewable electricity generated by a wind farm. By purchasing approximately 100 gigawatt-hours (GWh) per year for its Polish sites at a fixed price under the PPA, NSG Group expects to achieve a reduction in CO2 emissions equivalent to the amount emitted by approximately 15,000 passenger cars in one year of operation (or 278 million km traveled).

In yet another noteworthy initiative, in May 2022, NSG Group installed more than 4,300 thin-film solar panels, manufactured by First Solar with a generating capacity of 1.4 megawatts (MW), at the Rossford plant in Ohio, the U.S. Once they are in full operation, they will be supplying approximately 2.5 million kWh of renewable electricity annually.

Over 4,300 thin film solar panels are installed at the Rossford plant in the U.S.
NSG’s transparent electrically conductive (TEC) glass is used for these thin film solar panels.

NSG Group’s socially beneficial decarbonizing efforts also extend to product development. In May 2019, the company began joint development of transparent solar windows with Ubiquitous Energy, a leader in transparent solar panel technology. The aim is to develop a power-generating window by adding power generation capabilities to the conventional window glass. While maintaining the functionality of ordinary transparent window glass, invisible ultraviolet and infrared rays are selectively absorbed to generate electricity. Various experiments are underway with a view to commercialization. Building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) power generation, a novel renewable energy source eminently suited to urban areas where space constraints make installation of conventional solar panels difficult, is a focus of high expectations.

Sample of UEPower, a transparent solar cell. It converts invisible light into electricity while maintaining transparency.

In May 2022, NSG Group announced its commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, raising its CO2 emission reduction target by 2030 to 30% of the 2018 level. In accordance with its unswerving commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 for the benefit of society, NSG Group is accelerating its initiatives toward this goal. In addition, the company is implementing various other measures, such as CCSU (carbon capture, storage, and utilization), the use of alternative raw materials in glassmaking, and greater use of cullet (reuse of glass). NSG Group will further promote initiatives to make carbon neutrality a reality.

Nippon Sheet Glass
https://www.nsg.com/en
The NSG Group (Nippon Sheet Glass Co., Ltd. and its group companies) is the world's leading supplier of glass and glazing systems in the business areas of Architectural, Automotive and Creative Technology.
Architectural manufactures and supplies architectural glass as well as glass for the solar energy and other sectors.
Automotive serves the original equipment (OE) and aftermarket replacement (AGR) glazing markets.
Creative Technology comprises several discrete businesses, including lenses and light guides for printers and scanners, and specialty glass fiber products such as glass cord for timing belts and glass flake.

Social issues addressed by Sumitomo Group companies

Decarbonization

Decarbonization

Read about initiatives to achieve a low-carbon society, aiming at net-zero greenhouse gas emissions since these emissions are implicated in global warming.

Supply chain

Supply chain

In view of ongoing globalization and the growing complexity of supply chains, companies need to respond appropriately to issues in supply chains.

New workstyles

New workstyles

The pace of workstyle reform is accelerating as the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted numerous companies to embrace novel ways of working.

Health

Health

For companies, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the crucial importance of employee health into sharp focus.

Climate Change

Climate Change

Accelerating global warming poses serious business risks. Accordingly, companies need to formulate strategies and implement specific countermeasures from a medium- to long-term perspective.

Electrification of mobility

Electrification of mobility

Spurred by efforts to reduce environmental impacts and in line with increasing social needs, replacement of gasoline-powered vehicles with electric vehicles is accelerating.

Community

Community

Vigorous initiatives are afoot to tackle social issues by revitalizing communities and the interpersonal relationships that bind them together.

Poverty

Poverty

Poverty persists in contemporary Japan and the existence of child poverty is a grave concern.

Development of the next generation

Development of the next generation

In view of the continuing decline of Japan’s working age population, due to population aging coupled with a low birthrate, development of the next generation is an urgent issue.

Advanced Medicine

Advanced Medicine

The rapid progress in medicine in recent years is largely due to the efforts of not only universities and other research institutions but also of companies to develop cutting-edge technologies.

Local production for local consumption

Local production for local consumption

Numerous initiatives to promote industry and commerce at the regional and community level are underway, involving the use of renewable energy and thus contributing to decarbonization.

Food loss and waste

Food loss and waste

One-third of food produced is lost or wasted globally, amounting to about 1.3 billion tons per year. Food loss and waste is a pressing issue in need of a solution.

Planetary Health

Planetary Health

Companies are addressing a wide range of issues so that people and companies can coexist in harmony with the global environment.

Resilience

Resilience

In addition to natural disasters, there are various types of hazards whose nature, incidence and severity are changing with the times. Resilience and flexibility are indispensable in dealing with them.

Regional revitalization

Regional revitalization

Read about initiatives to achieve sustainable regional revitalization. The attributes and resources that each region can offer are leveraged to strengthen local economies and overcome the problem of population decline.

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