Namie, Japan and Lancaster, California ink historic agreement to be ‘world’s first’ hydrogen municipalities

Namie, Japan and Lancaster, California ink historic agreement to be ‘world’s first’ hydrogen municipalities

Mayor Rex Parris of Lancaster, California and Akira Muto, the Japanese Consul General in Los Angeles have inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop a “Smart Sister Cities” relationship for hydrogen production, storage, delivery and end use at city facilities and communities.

Believed to be the world’s first bilateral agreement by municipalities to use hydrogen as a green energy strategy, the concept of a hydrogen-centred Smart Sister City relationship was first proposed at a luncheon with Consul General Muto and the Parris, in July of 2020.

Lancaster, California, 70 miles north of Los Angeles, is a hub of clean energy innovation. Since 2009, the city has attracted over $2bn in solar investments, developed its own green energy municipal utility, and in 2019 became the first net-zero city in the US.

Also investing heavily on hydrogen, Namie Town, in Fukushima prefecture, Japan, completed construction of what is believed to be the largest solar-energy-powered hydrogen production unit in the world in 2020.

Together, the two cities have been refining hydrogen roadmaps and sharing experiences to boost a hydrogen economy. Mayor Parris has suggested that going forward the Smart Sister Cities program could become the framework for municipalities of all sizes to adopt a hydrogen roadmap.

“Municipalities have tremendous power to influence decisions and improve the environment. We hope they will convert to this incredibly smart fuel that promises a new opportunity for cities everywhere,” Mayor Parris said.

Consul General Muto, added, “Japan and the US are natural allies in many fields. Beginning with the collaboration between these two far-thinking cities, where both hydrogen production and end-use consumption will be fully explored, I expect this exciting relationship will help show the way towards building a hydrogen energy value-chain and a Hydrogen Society on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.”

Senator Padilla congratulated the two cities for making a unique collaboration to use hydrogen in addition to pairing together to share knowledge, contacts, best practices, and economic development strategies surrounding hydrogen uptake.

“They are leading the fight to reduce carbon emissions with innovative technologies and international collaborations,” he said, noting that California had long been a leader in solving the climate crisis and advancing climate justice. “As a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, I am committed to supporting bold action to transition to sustainable energy sources.”

According to Eiji Ohira, Head of Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technology at Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO), the two cities will gain more from new partnerships if global trends are an indicator. “Hydrogen is the key to achieving carbon neutrality, especially when maximising the potential of renewable energies. It is necessary to build a local energy model based on utilising local resources, and it is effective to mutually utilise the knowledge and experience of the two cities,” said Ohira.

CA Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis summed up the historic agreement by acknowledging that Japan and California, as pioneers in hydrogen, made ideal collaborators. “Together Japan and California are leading the way to a clean energy future. Our climate crisis is a global crisis and partnerships at all levels of government, including at the city level, are essential to tackling climate change,” she said.

“California is home to the largest number of hydrogen vehicles and hydrogen fuelling stations in the United States. As we decarbonise our economies, hydrogen will be an important fuel powering our transportation and industrial needs.”

The Los Angeles County Supervisor, Kathryn Barger, weighed in calling the partnership an historic opportunity for the City of Lancaster and the County of Los Angeles to take part in providing a critical resource. “It is my hope that hydrogen made in Lancaster will help fuel the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028, much like Namie-made hydrogen is being used during the upcoming Tokyo Olympics,” Barger said.

Mayor Rex Parris: Lancaster will be run by hydrogen within five years

© Mayor Rex Parris of Lancaster

When Mayor Rex Parris of Lancaster, California (pictured above) speaks at events around the world, he always asks the audience, usually filled with scientists, the same question: Is there anybody here that knows of a technology to save this planet and save our species?

“I’ve never had anybody raise their hand, not ever,” Parris told H2 View. He believes the solution is hydrogen and has committed the city of Lancaster to testing the technology as part of his mission to make Lancaster the first hydrogen city in the US.

“With this hydrogen technology, we could do it. We just have to move quick enough,” he said.

“It really comes down to the numbers – can you generate power with hydrogen for the same cost as we are with the current fossil fuel system and the infrastructure? The answer is yes, you can. Once that was answered, then it was just a question of political will to do it.”

“The huge stumbling block was always producing hydrogen without any footprint, and we can now do it. That’s what’s so fascinating to me, why I like it so much, it’s the retrofit.”

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