Social Issues addressed by Sumitomo —Compass for the Future—
Aiming for a carbon neutral society by slashing environmental impacts while securing economic growth underpinned by a next-generation energy management business
Energy is key to achieving environmental-impact-slashing carbon neutrality by 2050 while maintaining the momentum of economic growth.
Sumitomo Corporation has positioned the fostering of next-generation businesses that hasten the emergence of a carbon-neutral society at the heart of SHIFT 2023, its medium-term management plan announced in May 2021. Based on the axiom that what is required for decarbonization is a sustainable energy cycle enabling both environmental impact reduction and economic growth, in April 2021 the company established the Energy Innovation Initiative (EII), a new business organization.
To contribute to a carbon-neutral society by establishing a sustainable energy cycle and achieving decarbonization, the next-generation energy-related businesses of diverse business units have been folded into EII.
Sumitomo Corporation is focusing on three fields: 1) Developing carbon-free energy, such as hydrogen and ammonia, 2) Expanding power and energy services utilizing large-scale storage batteries, hydrogen, decentralized green power, geothermal energy, etc., and 3) CO2 capture, storage, and utilization, including forest-based environmental value creation, CCS, and carbon emissions trading.
For Sumitomo Corporation, contributing to the realization of carbon-neutral societies across the globe based on the local production for local consumption model necessarily entails not only leveraging the company’s own management resources, including human resources and intellectual property, but also wide-ranging collaboration with diverse partners. So, supporting local governments in Japan and abroad in their efforts to achieve carbon neutrality is part of EII’s mission.
For example, in January 2021 Sumitomo Corporation concluded a partnership agreement on hydrogen use and community development with Namie Town in Fukushima Prefecture, a community devastated by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. In its 2050 Zero Carbon City Declaration, Namie positions local production of hydrogen and other types of renewable energy for local consumption as a key component of recovery from the disaster. Although the catastrophe occurred more than 10 years ago and the rebuilding of infrastructure is progressing, albeit gradually, the town’s population is still only roughly 10% of its pre-disaster level. How to develop a sustainable flourishing community is a pressing issue for Namie.
Based on the concept, “A Namie-initiated energy shift that the world will want to imitate,” Namie Town and Sumitomo Corporation have joined forces to promote a transition from energy derived from fossil fuels to solar, wind and other renewable energies, not least hydrogen. Deploying its expertise for the benefit of Namie, Sumitomo Corporation’s collaboration with the town has two principal aspects: one is community development capitalizing on the use of hydrogen energy, and the other is establishment of a hub for initiatives, utilizing MIRAI LAB PALETTE, which is an open innovation lab designed and operated by Sumitomo Corporation.
Regarding the first aspect, Sumitomo Corporation will set up a multifunctional hydrogen station in the town and introduce fuel-cell mobility in the form of vehicles, bicycles, etc. to give the community “legs,” thus creating opportunities for the residents to gain real-life experience of the new value available through hydrogen use. The partners will undertake studies to evaluate the feasibility of businesses using hydrogen energy and promote tie-ups with local companies and other potential business partners. Moreover, local production of hydrogen is envisaged.
For the second aspect, Sumitomo Corporation will support Namie Town’s sustainable community development by participating from the design phase in the creation of venues and mechanisms so that people gather, pool information and exchange ideas, and take action.
As of November 2021, 492 local governments in Japan had announced their commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, representing a population of approximately 110 million people. In December 2021, Sumitomo Corporation, Nissan Motor, and Sumitomo Mitsui Auto Service formed a partnership to support local governments in their drive to be carbon neutral by 2050. With EII in the vanguard, Sumitomo Corporation’s initiatives in support of local governments in Japan are gaining momentum.
Sumitomo Corporation is taking the initiative overseas, too. Sumitomo Australia, a subsidiary, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to develop a hydrogen ecosystem in Gladstone, in the State of Queensland, Australia. The Australian government is working to establish a national hydrogen industry in line with its strategic objective of positioning the country as a top-tier hydrogen contender by 2030. Gladstone is a particularly promising location for hydrogen production and consumption by virtue of its existing industrial infrastructure and vigorous support from policymakers. Under the MOU, Sumitomo Corporation is partnering with Gladstone Ports Corporation (100% owned by the State of Queensland), Gladstone Regional Council, Central Queensland University, and Australian Gas Networks to conduct a feasibility study of hydrogen production and usage with a view to establishing a hydrogen-based community in Gladstone.
Sumitomo Corporation views hydrogen as a key energy source for achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and a sustainable energy cycle. Going forward, the company intends to accelerate development of diverse hydrogen-related businesses, including local production of hydrogen for local consumption, establishment of a large-scale hydrogen value chain, and development of a hydrogen ecosystem.
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