The current energy crisis calls for more innovation and investment, according to Panasonic

The energy crisis facing the world today reinforces the urgency to accelerate the transition to cleaner and more reliable sources of energy and to stimulate a “global energy revolution”.

Speaking to Euronews at a roundtable in Berlin, Masahiro Shinada, CEO of Panasonic Corporation, said soaring energy prices, supply uncertainty and environmental pressures have created the perfect storm. which will increase the demand for new affordable solutions that minimize the impact on the climate.

For decades, the Japanese electronics giant has been at the forefront of innovation and commercialization of new energy solutions such as heat pumps, components for hydrogen fuel cells for electromobility, etc. Today, it is increasing its manufacturing capabilities and clean energy investments in Europe as the transition away from fossil fuels intensifies.

“The technologies and human creativity we need to decarbonize society are here today. Significant improvements in energy savings can occur and we can increase clean energy production. Achieving a carbon-neutral society where energy is affordable, plentiful and clean is what drives us and we are seeing demand rise sharply,” Shinada told Euronews.

As part of its own global, energy-intensive manufacturing operations, Panasonic is committed to reaching net zero by 2030 while having a much wider impact on emissions reductions in society. Their goal, for example, is to reduce and avoid Co2 emissions by more than 300 million tonnes over the next 30 years, which requires a complete transformation of business operations, supply chains and design. some products.

But what is Panasonic doing now to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon society?

Heat Pumps: Cleaner, More Efficient Ways to Heat Homes

Heat pumps are a cleaner and more efficient way to heat, cool and supply domestic hot water systems. They work by capturing heat energy from the atmosphere and directing it into a home. Equipped with remote monitoring applications and cloud services, the consumers themselves have a better visualization of their consumption as well as the efficiency of the system thanks to remote controls by the installer for the prevention of breakdowns at times when the heating is most important.

Extracting natural heat from ambient air makes heat pumps a greener option compared to other heaters, such as electric heaters or natural gas, which require significantly more energy to make. work. And more efficient because they convert 1 kilowatt of electricity into 3 to 5 kilowatts of heat.

Panasonic has developed its heat pump technology over the past 20 years and will invest an additional €145 million over the next three years in Europe to expand production capacity at its plant in the Czech Republic, producing where demand is. significant and saving more Co2 emission on transportation from Asia..

“Heat pumps are much more energy efficient and can still extract heat, even at extreme outside temperatures. More efficiency means lower energy bills. We are investing in these solutions in the near future and plan to produce half a million units every year by 2025,” Shinada said.

Powering businesses: 100% renewable energy factories

On a much larger scale, industries are also looking for cleaner, more affordable ways to power their long-term operations. Panasonic itself emits 2.2 million tons of Co2 emissions each year through factory operations. Industrial-scale solutions are therefore needed to reach net zero by 2030.

Last year, the company launched the world’s first RE100 factory in Kusatsu, Japan. The RE100 means that Panasonic’s fuel cell plant is intended to be powered by 100% renewable energy sources generated from hydrogen fuel cell generators (electrification), photovoltaic panels (solar energy) and lithium-ion storage batteries to capture and store excess energy. . The plant’s energy consumption is managed by intelligent energy management systems that optimize production and give real-time visibility of energy consumption.

It is the world’s first RE100 plant and could become a model for how large-scale businesses and sites generate, store and manage clean energy in the future.

“This is a very exciting project as we are testing technologies that meet the optimal power supply and demand to run a plant. Lessons learned from this demonstration will be applicable to other factories around the world,” said Mitsutoshi Shigeta, Director of Green Transformation at Panasonic Corporation.

The company is investing 1.5 billion euros in Europe over the next decade to develop technologies and projects for heat pumps, fuel cell systems and green refrigeration technologies.

“We are now looking at producing fuel cells and demonstrating an energy management system using hydrogen in Europe, where we can see there are huge business opportunities,” Shigeta said.

Price: Making Cleaner Energy More Affordable

After decades of research and development, the technologies fueling the global energy revolution are ready to be distributed and scaled, but does the saving add up?

Speaking on the topic of accessibility and affordability, Shinada said the economy would remain an issue if full decarbonization of society occurs, but over time and more innovation, costs technologies such as fuel cells will decline. Like many other technologies, subsidies have in the past helped to make technologies more affordable and achieve economies of scale, while hydrogen supply infrastructure also needs to evolve.

Comparing the construction of the Japanese Olympic Village – where a test facility powered by hydrogen fuel cells had been installed – with the price of clean technologies today, Shinada is optimistic.

“From the first to the second generation of technologies, the costs of fuel cell systems have almost halved and we are already developing the third generation.

“Affordability is a very important issue and we need to accelerate our efforts in this direction to have the impact we want and need,” he concluded.

By Annabel Murphy

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