Japan Steps Up the Heat to Conserve Energy

japan setsuden photo

Image: Marufish via flickr

Japan is getting increasingly serious in its push for energy efficiency: earlier this month, the government called on businessmen to go to work in sandals and Hawaiian shirts to help keep cool. Now, the country is embracing "setsuden," the term for saving electricity, by doing things like switching off the A/C, keeping lights turned off, and running fewer elevators at any given time. The Wall Street Journal reports that the efforts have spawned "a thriving cottage industry of energy-saving methods--recipes that don't require cooking, ice pillows you keep in the freezer until bedtime, and leggings that wick away sweat."

A separate WSJ story described a sampler of specific energy-saving changes from around Japan, including:

- Capital subways operator Tokyo Metro will shut off air conditioners at 100 of 137 Tokyo stations during off-peak hours. The measure will be in effect from July 1 through September 22. Aiming to slash its daily use of electricity by 15%, the move comes in addition to an already 20% reduction in regular train services.

- Bank of Japan employees will be asked to come to work an hour earlier from July to September. The central bank's currency museum will also be shut on weekdays and seminars scheduled for the summer will be postponed.

- McDonald's Japan employees with desk jobs will be asked to work from home at least once a week starting July 1, affecting about 60% of the 500 workers based at Tokyo headquarters. The burger chain, which has already switched to LED lighting at several outlets, is also considering rotating store closures during the lunch rush in Tokyo and scaling back its menu.

The energy conservation craze follows the country's shut-down of 35 of its 54 nuclear power plants since the Fukushima disaster, according to GreenBiz, which has cut electricity output by 15 percent.

The Journal explains that the "government's decree to cut electricity by 15% starting July 1 in the Tokyo and Tohoku regions--or face blackouts--has been adopted widely. Even at the main palace in Tokyo, the emperor and empress are turning off lights a few hours a day."

And individual companies have been found taking steps ranging from pushing up work hours (to beat the afternoon heat) or changing weekends to Wednesdays and Sundays (to stagger energy use), to encouraging longer summer vacations, to growing plants in windows or along walls to help keep the interior cool.

And an environment ministry official has been trying to learn natural ways to keep cool from his grandmother, who grew up without air conditioning. The Journal quotes him saying, "It turns out that a lot of traditional Japanese designs, like bamboo curtains, are very effective in keeping out the heat."

More on Japan and energy consumption:
Japan Businessmen Encouraged to Wear Sandals & Hawaiian Shirts to Keep Cool, Save Energy
Japan's New Energy Policy Goes Cold on Nuclear
Keep Cool With a USB Powered Necktie Fan
How Much Will Japan's New Proposal To Reduce Emissions Cost?
Japanese Government Asks Water Suppliers To Keep Rain Out, Treat For Radionuclide Removal

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