The dates for the 5th Research and Development for Clean Energy Technologies (RD20) international conference have been decided: October 3 to October 6, 2023, at Hotel Hamatsu in Koriyama City, Fukushima. RD20 launched in 2019, the same year as the G20 Summit in Osaka, with the intent to provide a forum for researchers to discuss how to achieve carbon neutrality. This year, which is RD20’s fifth, will see the start of new endeavors to strengthen international collaboration and nurture young researchers. We spoke with Dr. YOSHIZAWA Noriko, Principal Research Manager at AIST’s Global Zero Emission Research Center (GZR) and the Secretary-General of the 5th RD20, about RD20 2023’s highlights and aims.
RD20 is the implementation of a proposal made by then Prime Minister ABE Shinzo at the G20 Summit held in Osaka in June 2019. It has brought together research institutions from G20 Countries and regions to discuss solutions and collaborate internationally to achieve carbon neutrality. Until now, RD20 had been an annual conference. However, a proposal was made at the fourth conference last year that RD20 should carry out actions year-round, and not just hold a meeting once-a-year. Dr. Yoshizawa indicated her resolve to make 2023 the year of moving from proposal to implementation.
At last year’s RD20, Dr. Florence Lefebvre-Joud(Reference 1) of France’s CEA-Liten proposed holding a summer school and helping young researchers with network building. This year will see this proposal’s implementation as well. The decision was made for France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) to hold the school on the outskirts of Grenoble, France from Sunday, July 2 to Friday, July 7.
There attendees will discuss such topics as solar, wind and other renewable energy sources that directly lead to carbon neutrality, and technologies for controlling them, over 13 one-hour-long lectures. Participants will be young researchers recommended by their country’s research institute, with up to three attending per RD20 member country. The school is generally aimed at individuals in at least the second year of their PhD program. Dr. Yoshizawa hopes they will bring their young, fresh eyes and freely contribute opinions on assessment technologies, which are a shared issue for carbon neutrality, in addition to other topics. The final wrap-up will consist of participants presenting a summary of recommendations related to carbon neutrality resulting from their discussions.
Through the summer school, RD20 can also contribute to network building for international collaboration and offer human resource development that will advance the participants’ careers. While the school is planned to be around 70 to 80 individuals in size, this may vary slightly due to the individual circumstances of member Countries and regions. RD20’s hosts will cover the young researchers’ attendance and accommodation costs.
Another year-round endeavor decided on at last year’s conference was the creation of an action committee. This committee will discuss RD20’s direction throughout the year, separate from the annual conference. Until now the US, Germany, France, the EU, Australia and other member countries were the main constituents of such discussions, led by Dr. KONDO Michio (Reference 2) of AIST’s GZR. Going forward, the action committee will encourage the participation of researchers from developing Countries and regions as well. Indonesia, South Africa and others are among the Countries and regions that have been approached.
The main highlight of 2023’s RD20 is that it will be held in Fukushima Prefecture, away from its usual location of Tokyo. Fukushima continues to draw attention because of the worldwide interest brought to it by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. Dr. Yoshizawa remarks that holding the conference there will also be a good opportunity to demonstrate that Fukushima is a key location in Japan’s energy policy and to show how the area has recovered.
Additionally, the region is familiar to AIST, as it is home to its Fukushima Renewable Energy Institute (FREA). RD20 attendees will visit the facility during the site tour scheduled for October 6. As this will also be the perfect opportunity for researchers working at FREA to call the world’s attention to their efforts, they will present the carbon neutral initiatives of local companies through a poster session and discuss them with researchers from around the globe.
RD20’s purpose is not to race towards decarbonization with developed Countries and regions taking the lead, but to carry this goal forward with each region presenting their own solutions—as developing Countries and regions face their own unique challenges—while Countries and regions show understanding for the others’ circumstances. As introduced in last year’s RD20 Special Interviews,(Reference 3,4) India is focusing on biofuels, biohydrogen, and biomass. Meanwhile, Australia is facing a challenge in the form of methane gas given off by cows, sheep and other livestock when they belch. Methane has an environmental burden several times that of CO2.
Last year’s proposals are being implemented at a steady pace this year. Dr. Yoshizawa related her desire for RD20’s future expansion into more new initiatives that will further drive society’s implementation of clean energy and achieve carbon neutrality while capitalizing on the collective body of research institutions that is RD20.
There are also plans to hold both open sessions, as well as closed workshops exclusively for researchers specializing in specific areas. Frank, unfettered discussion exercised at the workshops will enable honest debate that will be useful in deciding future policy. Dr. Yoshizawa hopes to leverage RD20 as a platform for international collaboration through free discussion, which includes the aforementioned workshops.
While the conference had been held exclusively in Japan until now, the opinion emerged at last year’s RD20 that it should rotate every other year between Japan and other member Countries and regions. With no conclusion yet reached, it appears discussions will move ahead regarding the next location for RD20.
Kenji Tsuda Editor in Chief, Semiconductor Portal