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Climate Change

Carbon neutrality at heart of Japan's Ceatec expo

Ahead of COP26, big brands showcase hydrogen, solar and other green solutions

Toshiba, Sharp, Huawei Japan and Takenaka give glimpses into their decarbonization efforts during an online tech expo. (Montage of screenshots from Ceatec's website)

TOKYO -- Japanese companies are stampeding to show off decarbonization plans at a flagship annual tech trade show, in a sign of growing pressure on them to take global warming seriously. With the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26, coming up at the end of this month, the latest technologies are growing in appeal.

The annual tech expo officially kicked off on Tuesday. Over 300 companies are showcasing their latest products and services during the next four days. Due to COVID-19, the expo is being held completely online for the second year in a row.

Many participating companies have taken the online platform as an opportunity to introduce green initiatives, especially those related to carbon neutrality.

Takenaka Corp., a major Japanese contractor that has been around since 1610, is offering a glimpse into its decarbonization efforts, which focus on hydrogen.

In a video, Takenaka explained its hydrogen energy demonstration tests and said it is ready to use what it has learned to expand its business.

The company seeks to help clients efficiently manage their energy consumption by installing compact hydrogen stations or dispensers in buildings in urban areas.

Toshiba, Sharp and other big brands are presenting technologies that can support the transition to renewable energy.

Toshiba is displaying next-generation solar cells, including a polymer film-based perovskite solar module. President and CEO Satoshi Tsunakawa said during an opening event that the panel's "flexibility and lightweight design make it possible for the module to be used in new locations like office building windows and roofs with weak strength." It boasts a 15.1% power conversion rate.

Sharp promoted its self-consumption business, a service that allows consumers to generate their own energy. In an effort to accelerate the use of renewables, the electronics maker will install solar power systems with no initial investment cost on newly built homes and large factories.

Huawei Japan showcased iSitePower, a solar and battery system meant to bring electricity to remote areas. It also introduced a small-scale hybrid power solution designed for homes, stores and other spaces that lack access to commercial or stable power supplies. The system functions as an uninterruptible power supply.

Companies are becoming increasingly vulnerable to climate change as extreme weather, supply chain disruptions and other potential consequences put their businesses at risk. Consumers and investors, meanwhile, are considering companies' ESG (environmental, social, and governance) practices when making decisions.

World leaders are holding more discussions on the topic, and many countries are taking steps to address climate change. The main focus of discussion at COP26, which will be held in Glasgow, will be countries' efforts to reduce their carbon emissions.

In Japan, the government has set an ambitious 2030 goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 46% from 2013 levels, mainly by pushing into renewables. Along with the U.S. and Europe, Japan aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

According McKinsey & Company, Japan is the world's sixth largest greenhouse gas emitter, following China, the U.S., the EU, India and Russia. Most of Japan's emissions originate from the power sector, industries, transportation and buildings.

Mizuho Bank's Industry research department on Tuesday held a Ceatec conference about how Japanese IT and electronics companies should behave in a carbon-neutral era.

Kokoro Yamaguchi from the bank's telecom, media and technology team noted that companies have the potential to drive growth by offering solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or systems that manage energy consumption, or by otherwise expanding into carbon neutrality-related businesses.

However, companies must also work toward reducing their own carbon footprint "throughout the entire supply chain," he said. "Companies might even need to consider modifying their business models as failure to reduce carbon dioxide emissions could result in companies being weeded out by competitors."

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