30 Jun 2011

Avoiding a massive black out – Efforts to save energy by local governments in Japan

In Japan, we are concerned that the electricity supply may fall short of electricity demand this summer since many nuclear power plants cannot be restarted because of objections by concerned local governments. Shortfall in power may cause a massive black out, which will have a large effect on life and economic activities. New Yorkers will remember the blackout of 2004!

The government, companies and people in Japan are considering various ways to reduce energy consumption to avoid such a severe situation. The issue for Japan is not “always” reducing usage but reducing usage “during peak hours”.

For their part, local governments in Japan are also making efforts to save energy. For example, Niigata prefecture government is trying to save electricity in many different ways; such as, reducing the operation of elevators and installing energy-efficient LED lights in the prefecture office buildings. Also, in order to reduce electricity usage, especially in the daytime, it operates the air-conditioning system by using water which has been chilled at night when demand for power is low.

In addition, Niigata prefecture government asked people and companies in the area to save energy in order to reduce electricity consumption during peak use hours by 15%. In order to confirm whether they can reduce by 15%, 3 trials were conducted from April to June before it got really hot. In the trial conducted most recently, on June 21st, which was held in temperatures as high as 28C (about 82F), they found they could reduce 240 thousand kWh of electric consumption compared to days which had been the same temperature in the previous year, while the target was 210 thousand kWh reduction.

A similar experiment was carried out in Kanagawa Prefecture on June 22nd. Electric usage was reduced successfully by 13.4% compared to the same day in the previous year. Particularly, in the Yokohama city hall building, electric usage was decreased by 44.8%. Interestingly, a major contribution to the decrease was that the City had officials change their lunch period so that they could turn off the lights in the hallways and offices during peak hours.

Local governments all over Japan are working on saving energy in various ways. Some examples are: Introducing summertime hours where officials start working earlier than usual and making “green curtains” that are made of climbing plants on a net stretched wide enough to cover windows or walls.

There is no end to the imagination when it comes to finding new ways to save energy.

Reference: Website of Niigata Prefecture, Website of the City of Yokohama


Takeshi Furukawa