Iceland and Japan have decided to enhance cooperation between Icelandic and Japanese business enterprises in energy and advanced green technology. The decision was made during meetings between the Minister for Foreign Affairs Ossur Skarphedinsson and the Japanese ministers for foreign affairs and economy, trade and industry, as well as executive directors of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and investment funds in Japan.
During the meeting with Mr. Skarphedinsson, the Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Akihiro Ohata, emphasised the joint collaboration between Iceland and Japan on geothermal projects in Japan, Iceland and in developing countries. Mr. Ohata is one of the most prominent politicians in Japan and also the chairman of the Iceland-Japan inter-parliamentary friendship delegation in the National Diet of Japan.
Mr. Ohata expressed his intent to further strengthen cooperation on projects in Iceland by advocating for the increased involvement of Japanese business enterprises and investors. The Minister also expressed firm interest in Japanese and Icelandic companies joining hands in the utilisation of geothermal energy in third countries, for example in East Africa, Latin America and Indonesia, where Icelandic and Japanese enterprises are already operating.
Foreign Minister Skarphedinsson mentioned that this kind of cooperation, where Iceland would supply knowledge on geothermal energy and the UN Geothermal Training Programme's network, and Japan would supply technological expertise, financial resources and turbines, could be conducive to alleviating energy poverty for other nations, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. Japanese authorities have already pledged high amounts for environmentally friendly investments in developing countries.
The Embassy of Iceland in Tokyo organised a conference with 300 participants on the utilisation of geothermal energy in cooperation with the Japanese authorities, as well as enterprises and investment funds, where a proposal was put forth by Japanese parties that Icelandic engineering companies would evaluate the viability of building a geothermal power plant in partnership with Japan, in the northern city of Aomori.
Following the conference, Icelandic companies met with Japanese energy and engineering companies and investment firms. In many cases, clear wishes were expressed by the representatives of the Japanese companies for cooperation in the development of geothermal projects in developing countries, where the former would buy services from Icelandic companies.
The possibility of further projects involving Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Iceland was discussed during the visit, as the company has sold turbines to Icelandic hydroelectric and geothermal power plants for a number of years. During the Minister's workshop with Mr. Hideaki Omiya, President of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and Mr. Ichiro Fukue, Senior Executive Vice President, a number of ideas were discussed, including the adoption of electric vehicles in the Icelandic car fleet and the production of environmentally friendly fuels from manufacturing emissions. An idea proposed by the Mitsubishi representatives as to whether developing battery-powered trains in Iceland would be feasible was also discussed, for example between Reykjavik and Keflavik International Airport.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs presented formal thanks to the government on behalf of the Icelandic authorities for Japan's support for the IMF programme, as the Prime Minister of Japan was the first to promise increased contributions to the IMF's emergency lending programme in order to deal with the financial crisis in Iceland in the autumn of 2008. Mr. Skarphedinsson presented his formal thanks in a meeting with Mr. Seiji Maehara, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Yutaka Banno, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs. A number of subjects were touched upon in the meeting, including mutual relations between the nations, solidarity at the international level, the status of Japanese-Russian relations and Japanese-Chinese relations, and issues where a potential for establishing agreements between the two states exists. The foreign minister emphasised that an air transport agreement would be drawn up in order to facilitate increased tourism.
According to Foreign Minister Maehara, he will encourage Japanese development funds to take a positive view of joint projects between Japanese and Icelandic companies in geothermal utilisation. Mr. Yutaka Banno is also the director of the Iceland-Japan inter-parliamentary friendship delegation.
Iceland's foreign minister also met with the executive directors of Japan's largest investment funds and export insurance funds, accompanied by the CEO and chairman of the Board of Directors of Reykjavik Energy.
Moreover, Mr. Skarphedinsson met with Mr. Yasutoshi Nishimura, former state secretary and current "Shadow Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry" in Japan. He is a member of the national legislature on behalf of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, where he is an influential figure. Mr. Nishimura carries an avid interest in Iceland and geothermal issues, as do the above-mentioned ministers Mr. Ohata and Mr. Banno.
Following the foreign minister's visit, a joint working group will be formed in order to manage projects. The Embassy of Iceland in Japan will lead the activity on behalf of Iceland, together with Japanese and Icelandic energy companies and engineering firms.