Fuel cells and the hydrogen revolution: Analysis of a strategic plan in Japan

Noriko Behling, Mark C. Williams, Shunsuke Managi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Japan may be the least likely country to start a revolution, but its new energy policy, if implemented successfully, will revolutionize Japan's economy, society, and energy infrastructure. The new energy policy calls for the creation of a "hydrogen society" in which citizens will use hydrogen as their primary energy source. Hydrogen fuel would be produced from renewable sources and used to generate electricity at home and to power vehicles via fuel cells. The policy came into force in April 2015 and will guide Japan's energy development for the next 25 years and perhaps beyond. The new policy is a determined response to the twin disasters faced on March 11, 2011, when Japan was struck by a Magnitude 9 earthquake and then a catastrophic tsunami, which devastated Japan's economy, energy security, and environmental well-being. The new energy policy would substantially reduce Japan's dependence on nuclear power as well as oil and gas-fired thermal power plants and would greatly strengthen the development of fuel cell systems that use hydrogen. Implemented in three broad phases over several decades, the policy would promote the development of fuel cells that are less costly, more efficient, and more durable, and it would develop hydrogen production, storage, and transport as well as fueling systems to support the widespread use of fuel cells. Over the long term, the hydrogen society could be integrated into Japan's concept of a "smart community" that uses digital technologies and information and communication technologies to more efficiently generate and regulate the use of power. This paper examines how Japan laid the policy and legal framework in the 1990s to promote fuel cell and hydrogen development, compares Japan's investment and policy strategies to those in the United States and the European Union, identifies the challenges Japan will face in broadly establishing a hydrogen society, assesses the potential economic benefits it might enjoy if the hydrogen society policy succeeds, and recommends that the new energy policy be more fully integrated with other initiatives to promote economic growth, more efficient communities, and a cleaner environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-221
Number of pages18
JournalEconomic Analysis and Policy
Publication statusPublished - Sept 6 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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