Tokyo 2020: Forerunning a Hydrogen Economy
Updated: Aug 12
The Tokyo Olympics has been more than just about the Games. History was made behind the curtains in the host nation's drive for energy efficiency as Tokyo begins its journey to becoming the first-ever "Hydrogen economy".
Japan has been making headlines for the last couple of weeks for all the right reasons. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics became the epicentre of global attention, only manifesting in magnitude with time. Throw in a havoc-wreaking pandemic into the mix, and scepticism is born.
Now though, the standards have been set. The Games marked a safe and successful closure in the Japanese capital while the whole world witnessed its pomp and glory. What went unnoticed was Tokyo leveraging the world’s biggest athletic event to pull off a remarkable feat as a country that takes environmental protection and energy sustainability more than seriously. But how?
Recording a first of its kind in Olympian history, Japan would be using hydrogen for fuelling both the Olympic and Paralympic cauldrons. The plan is to exhibit a sustainable source of energy and power for the future in what could be called the country’s most ambitious drive towards accomplishing energy efficiency objectives.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the visible universe, accounting for up to 90% of its composition. Such abundance comes from the configuration of hydrogen with only one proton, a single electron and zero neutrons, making it the simplest element in the universe. This expands its potential to be a reliable source of energy for producing renewable electricity. Such solutions have become paramount in the face of depleting scales of non-renewable sources of energy and power such as fossil fuels.
Carbon dioxide emissions have proved to be a pain point for most countries that have been unable to come up with efficient alternatives to curtail the emissions, a step strategically pertinent to ecological safety and well-being. As an energy source, hydrogen produces no such emissions, giving it a competitive advantage over existing resources for providing healthier alternatives and significantly controlling environmental derogation.
How Tokyo 2020 revolutionized the Olympic Village?
Having understood the credibility of hydrogen as a clean and abundant source of energy, it is important to realize how Tokyo put forward its best practices in turning the ideal model into a forerunning reality. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) made use of hydrogen power in lighting the ceremonious Olympic cauldrons. Official Olympic partner Toyota has provided 500 hydrogen FCEV Mirai cars and 100 FCEV Sora buses (each capable of storing up to 600 litres of energy) to run in the metropolitan area open for public use. Besides, a fleet of FCEV fork-lift trucks is being used to transit heavy equipment and logistics. Nearly 35 hydrogen fuelling stations have been installed throughout the city of Tokyo.
Despite plans to power the entire Games village with hydrogen fuel, restrictive situations led to only one building in the Olympic village being powered by the use of hydrogen-fuelled electricity, i.e., the “Relaxation House”, for the sportspersons to relax and rejuvenate.
Tokyo and Hydrogen: An aged pursuit
In a bid to push its plans as using advanced technologies to further the cause of energy conservation and energy efficiency through the Olympics, Japan has indubitably benchmarked its legacy as a forerunner in the global arena.
Previously, the country’s commitment to clean energy sources has been cemented in the worldview with the establishment of Tokyo’s Research Center for a Hydrogen Energy-Based Society (ReHES) at the Tokyo Metropolitan University and the building of one of the world’s largest hydrogen plants in Fukushima Prefecture in the town of Namie. The Kawasaki King Skyfront Tokyu REI Hotel of Tokyo is also claimed to be the world’s first hotel to be powered partly by hydrogen generated from plastic waste.
Tokyo aims to realize a countrywide hydrogen-energy society by the end of 2025. The ambitious project is being constantly transmogrifying into a feasible reality through large-scale investments, the country’s advanced technological resources and dedicated cross-cutting research to amplify the sustainability of a foundation already laid.
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