Companies taking the lead towards renewable energy

Figure 1: News article in The Japan Times

Sustainability has slowly emerged and become a major topic of concern. At the 2015 Paris climate change accord, countries agreed to control and restricting the global temperature rise. Companies around the world have to adopt sustainable business policies to increase their value and stay part of the market (Sustainable Business Network, (n.d.)). On September 10th, The Japan Times* published an article on Sony’s renewable energy plans (Sony plans to power global operations with renewables by 2040, 2018).

Article
Sony Corporation, one of Japan’s well-established multinational company, has decided to achieve 100% renewable energy consumption in all of its global operations by 2040. Though its European sites has already achieved using 100% green energy. However, the sites in Japan and Thailand are behind in such green initiatives, due to the high investment cost. Besides, Japan is the company’s main power consumption site and even hosts seven semiconductor plants. (The Japanese Times, 2018)

Sony has plans for installation of solar panels in both Japan and Thailand operation sites, intending to increase the renewable energy usage from 5% in 2017 to 30% in 2030. Despite their concerns towards the raising cost, they believe this is a good opportunity to add value to the company. In conjunction with this plan, they have also join RE100 and work on the solutions to lowering the cost of renewable energy with other partners. (The Japanese Times, 2018)

RE100
RE100 is a collaboration of influential businesses to move towards a low carbon economy by the usage of 100% green electricity. In total 144 companies have joined this movement (RE100, (n.d.)). Sony recently joined the RE100 (Hill, 2018). The advantage is that the companies share their practices knowledge and learn from each other. Additionally, this group of frontrunners has an inspiring purpose for other companies, which adds to their image as being a sustainable company. (RE100, (n.d.))

Sony
Sony already made some steps towards sustainability. The Sony operations in Europe rely for 100% on green energy (Sony plans to power global operations with renewables by 2040, 2018). They aim to have a global CO2 reduction of 300,00 tons in 2020 (see figure 2) (Sony, 2018).

Figure 2: Overview CO2 reductions Sony in the past years.

Besides, Sony plans to install solar panels at the factories in Japan and Thailand. However, installation of solar panels requires a great surface area to capture significant amounts of energy. Sony did not reveal any cost estimation and specific information on the timeframe for this plan. Thus the feasibility of this plan cannot be examined.

Renewable energy does contribute towards CO2 emission reduction. However, a company can not be totally dependent on this energy source. Natural factors (weathers,seasons etc) fluctuate, therefore the supply is not constant. As Japan is a seasonal country, with short daytime in winter, it is impossible to obtain enough energy from solar panels alone. Storage facilities are required to make this energy source more reliable and the company even more sustainable (LeBlanc, 2018).

Next to renewable energy Sony has made up its own challenge ‘road to zero’. The aim is to decrease the environmental impact of the company to zero. Sony has organized several environmental activities around the globe, including: promoting bike use, reducing waste, cleaning up beaches and supporting sustainable practices. (Sony, 2018)

Sony also puts effort in sustaining environment in other ways. While taking care for the environment, those campaigns also contribute to their familiarity and value on the market.

Representation
Among 144 companies that are part of RE100, 11 of them are from Japan (RE100, (n.d.)). This shows that the Japanese companies significantly contribute to sustainable businesses. They realize the importance of sustaining the environment and hence took the lead in making an effort to use more renewable energy sources.

However, for Japan as a country it is important to reduce the carbon footprint to ensure a pleasant world for the next generations. Additionally, it adds to being less dependent on other countries for energy production. (Agency for natural resources and energy, 2017)

Japan has a low energy self-sufficiency ratio, 7,4%, compared to other countries as it does not have many natural resources. Therefore it relies on other countries for its energy supply. Oil, coal and natural gas, are mainly imported from overseas and requires huge amounts of energy, which is not sustainable. Before 2011 nuclear energy had an important role in the energy generation of Japan. Currently Japan is doing research on the usage of alternative energy options, like solar, wind, methane hydrate and hydrogen. (Agency for natural resources and energy, 2017)

Conclusion
Overall, Sony has made serious efforts to reduce its CO2 emission. Besides, events, campaigns and promotion are organized to reduce the environmental footprint in other categories as well, they aim to involve the users in this process as well. As a company, Sony really wants to live together in harmony with the environment.

Sony recently joined the RE100 to cooperate and move towards an 100% renewable energy usage. The Japanese companies, of the RE100, should be an example for Japan to implement more renewable practices and improve the environmental impact of the country.

* The majority of the readers of The Japan Times are non-Japanese, who live in Japan. The newspaper is also globally spread and seen as quality reporting (World Eye Reports).

References
Agency for natural resources and energy. (2017). JAPAN’S ENERGY, 20 Questions to understand the current energy situation [Brochure]. Author. Retrieved from http://www.enecho.meti.go.jp/en/category/brochures/pdf/japan_energy_2017.pdf

Hill, J. S. (2018, September 10). Sony, McKinsey, & RBS Join RE100 In Commitment To 100% Renewable Energy. Retrieved from https://cleantechnica.com/2018/09/10/sony-mckinsey-rbs-join-re100-in-commitment-to-100-renewable-energy/

LeBlanc, R. (2018, April 9). The Importance of Battery Storage for Sustainable Energy. Retrieved from https://www.thebalancesmb.com/importance-of-battery-storage-for-sustainable-energy-4163010

RE100. (n.d.). Companies. Retrieved from http://there100.org/companies

RE100. (n.d.). RE100. Retrieved from http://there100.org/re100

Sony. (2018, July 30). Sony and the Environment | Initiatives. Retrieved from https://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/csr/SonyEnvironment/initiatives/index.html

Sony. (2018, August 29). Use of Renewable Energy. Retrieved from https://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/csr_report/environment/site/re_energy.html

Sony plans to power global operations with renewables by 2040. (2018, September 10). The Japan Times. Retrieved from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/09/10/business/corporate-business/sony-plans-power-global-operations-renewables-2040/#.W5s1fUxuKUm

Sustainable Business Network. (n.d.). Why should my business become more sustainable? Retrieved from https://sustainable.org.nz/guide-to-sustainability/

World Eye Reports. (n.d.). The Japan Times. Retrieved from http://www.worldeyereports.com/media-the-japan-times/

Oh! My (cash) cow’s green!

 

Article: Japanese firms find profits in going green (https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/11/13/national/japanese-firms-find-profits-in-going-green/#.W4ifT5P7SR)

 

Summary

The article explores the financial benefits of investing in “green” products and technologies, by citing examples of two companies.

Kirishima Shuzo Co. cut costs of outsourcing its disposal of industrial waste, by investing in a recycling facility that harnesses waste methane from a fermentation process of its shochu (distilled sake) to, firstly, power its production, and secondly, generate excess electricity to sell to Kyushu Electric Power Co. for profit.

New Tech Shinsei Inc. has expanded its scope of operations, and started utilizing waste wood from forest thinning (which is unsuitable for furniture production (Mokulock, n.d.)) to create wooden toy blocks (called Mokulock) as an alternative to plastic ones.

 

Choosing to Go Green

In both cases, the Japanese veer towards “greener” ways: generating renewable energy in the former; changing product inputs from un-renewable electronics to biodegradable waste (wood) while reducing waste from forest thinning in the latter. To the layman, this may incidentally appeal to the Japanese’ claim to love nature. Hence, Japan’s apparently quaint, and spurious love for green could be reinforced.

 

How is “going green” represented?

However, it’s evident that the key focus of the article is not the environmental benefits of “going green”, but the financial benefits.

For both examples, there is repeated emphasis on cost and profit; Kirishima Shuzo Co. reduced disposal costs from 10,000¥ per ton to below 1,500¥ per ton. Its representative cited the financial soundness of this strategy: investment costs would be recovered as prices of renewable energy stay fixed for 20 years under the FIT system – a governmental policy which encourages renewable electricity production in private firms in Japan, by obligating electric power companies to purchase the energy on a fixed price, fixed period contract (IEA – Japan, 2018). New Tech Shinsei created Mokulock to stay afloat when its original business was failing.

 

Honestly it wasn’t for the environment at first, but rather for [them] to survive…

 

There is little analysis of how the “green” practices would benefit the environment. For example, there is no mention of how much wood from forest thinning is saved due to the Mokulock project, or how the sustainable disposal of waste by Kirishima Shuzo Co. will reduce its carbon footprint, apart from a vague mention that it would “help combat global warming”.

Thus, Japanese firms are represented as having a pragmatic approach to conservation, implying that their “going green” is motivated solely by financial interest. The environmental impact is almost portrayed as a side bonus. Strikingly, New Tech Shinsei’s representative stated: “Honestly it wasn’t for the environment at first, but rather for [them] to survive.”

The Japan Times is owned by Nifco, an industrial manufacturer. Its lack of affiliation with environmental organisations could explain the limited emphasis on environmental benefit. Instead, emphasising profits may be a conscious decision to appeal to the elite Japanese’ (part of its audience) practical relationship with nature.

 

Afterthoughts

Japanese’ attitude toward nature has been unique. For example, they see bonsai, an unnatural form of a live plant, as ‘love for nature’. This ambivalent view on nature innate in japanese culture (Asquith & Kalland, 1997), could have romanticized the article’s content in the eyes of its Japanese writers – they are unaware of its pragmatic implications to outsiders, which could damage the carefully constructed idea of Japan’s ‘innate love of nature’.

The pragmatic attitude towards environmental conservation is reflective of Japan’s historical relationship with nature. Historically, there have been regulations on preserving vegetation, which were justified by how it is necessary for maintaining the people’s needs – an anthropocentric approach. One example is an ancient court order on protecting “vegetation on the mountains” in order to “[secure] water” (Totman, 1989). This suggests that the Japanese have been consistent in conserving the environment for their own needs. Today, apart from keeping resources plentiful, “going green” is also used  for reducing costs and increasing profits.

Also interestingly, what was described in this article could be a twist on ‘political ecology’ – political circumstances forcing environmental degradation (Stott and Sullivan, 2000), now that circumstances seem to promote conservation.

 

The bigger picture

In both cases, human intervention was imperative to “going green” – government policies in the former, and creative entrepreneurship for the latter. The ultimate driving force is, however, still economic. Therefore, if economics discourse could recognize nature as a finite source/sink of resources, conventional economic forces which used to exploit nature could instead drive conservation. The FIT system may be a sign of politics moving in this direction.

Caption: A proposed concept including ‘environment capital’ as a source/sink among the pre-established web of economic flows (Thampapillai & Sinden, 2013).

 

Like this, the environment would be better understood by the layman as part of a closed loop with finite resources, to be exploited only sustainably.

 

 

(774 words)

References

Asquith, P. J., & Kalland, A. (1997). Japan’s Perception of Nature. Japanese images of nature: Cultural perspectives. (pp 21) Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press.

IEA – Japan. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.iea.org/policiesandmeasures/pams/japan/name-30660-en.php

Mokulock (n.d.) How did Mokulock come to be? Retrieved from https://mokulock.biz/

Stott, P. A., & Sullivan, S. (2000). Political ecology: Science, myth and power. London: Arnold.

Thampapillai, D. J., & Sinden, J. A. (2013). Environmental economics: Concepts, methods, and policies (Second ed.). South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Totman, C.D. (1989) The Green Archipelago: Forestry in Preindustrial Japan. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press.

All uncited pictures taken from the creative commons.

Hot spring bathing tradition stymies Japan’s clean energy ambitions

Steam emerges from a well dug to test geothermal power generation in Hokkaido in October 2015. | KYODO

Steam emerges from a well dug to test geothermal power generation in Hokkaido in October 2015. | KYODO

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/06/21/business/economy-business/naked-bathers-tradition-stymie-japans-clean-energy-ambitions/

After the 2011 Fukushima disaster, the use of nuclear energy is largely reduced. Japan is eagerly seeking for new clean energy alternative. Onsen (温泉), the popular Japanese hot spring attracts 120 million of people each year is now being considered. As a resource-poor country, Japan ironically owns the world’s third-largest geothermal reserve, approximating to 23 gigawatts of power which is as powerful as 20 nuclear reactors according to International Energy Agency’s geothermal division. With the pressure of reducing carbon emissions as promised during Paris climate talk, the government wishes to triple its current geothermal capacity by 2030. It claims to reduce Japan’s CO2 emissions by 54.7 million tons a year.

However, the representative from Japan Spa Association as well as hot spring owners are very against this idea of expanding geothermal development. They believe this would lower the temperature for their spa and exhaust the volume. Meanwhile, 80% of geothermal resources lies underneath Onsen and natural parks, developing the capacity leads to more drilling inside the natural parks which is not approved by the Environment Ministry. Environment review on expanding drilling area could take up to 9 years. All of these largely hindered the development of Japan’s new clean energy.

“Green” or “Sustainability” in this context has two aspects. On one end, the government should try to reduce their carbon emissions to save the Earth and achieve environmental sustainability. On the other end of the spectrum, government should not overuse the energy and resources so that they are sustainable. Geothermal energy is considered as a renewable energy with almost unlimited amount of heat generated every day. Currently with only 2% of geothermal resources being utilized, the plan of tripling capacity is reasonable to consider.

So far, the above arguments sound as green as it could be from the perspective of Japanese government. Yet the act of trying to expand drilling areas as much as possible without considering the species and animals in natural parks aligns back with the opinion in Kirby’s article, it has demonstrated how meaningless the term sustainability has become in Japan (Kirby, 2011). In the article, the hot spring owners care very much on their economic interests instead of sustainable resources and environmental sustainability, largely shows the Japanese love for nature is meaningless under economic and political context, leads to the question of whether Japan is the green nation.

Last year, Japan spent ¥18.2 trillion importing fossil fuels to power their electricity needs. We could not say the urge of developing new clean energy is either due to their “greenness” or caused by their economic consideration as eventually a country should seek environmental sustainability when economic condition allows. A nation will only be considered green when its citizen truly possesses the love of nature without being affected by religious, cultural, economic and social factors.

(470 words)

Reference

Kirby, P. W. (2011). Troubled natures: waste, environment, Japan. Honolulu, University of Hawai’i Press: 160-192.

New buzzword for Japan condo buyers: nature-friendly

Article: New buzzword for Japan condo buyers: nature-friendly

n-condo-a-20160413-870x570
New nature-friendly condominiums are housing solutions that are increasingly gaining attention due to the rising awareness in environmentally-friendly products. Not only are they an add-on to energy-saving condos, suitable greenery is planted on the condo buildings to create habitats for creatures, allowing its inhabitants to live in harmony with the biodiversity and thus helping to “preserve the local environment” by minimizing damage to the ecosystem.

Representation of Japan and the environment
Japan is seen here as nature-loving; in the article, both the contractor and the buyers are interested in not just a natural environment to live in, but also being closer to the environment and co-existing with nature by incorporating it into their living spaces. They acknowledge that such is a healthy environment for children and future generations to develop in and to learn about the importance of protecting the environment and living in harmony with other creatures. It may also be the direction that Japan is taking in an attempt to obtain a win-win situation for both the Japanese and the environment.

What makes Japan “green”?
The amount of attention and expertise the contractors employed into researching the biodiversity and the many factors to encourage plant growth reflects the Japanese’ understanding of the importance of a healthy ecosystem. Along with the pre-existing energy-saving condos, Japan seems to aim towards being as “green” as possible by to minimize harm to its biodiversity. Additionally, the fact that the ABINC certification exists shows that the authorities and the citizens acknowledge the importance of the ecosystem in Japan. This article shows how the Japanese play their part in protecting nature in their own way, which gives off the idea that the Japanese are nature-loving and “green”.

Relation to ideas in class
The way nature and habitat is “created” is also a way of selectively modifying nature to suit the Japanese housing needs. By adding nature to housing to make it seem practical, environmental and aesthetically pleasing, the contractors might be encouraging co-existence with nature and also adding on to their project to increase attractiveness to buyers. The ABINC certification recognizes whether a project is environmental, but the contractor may have used this very certificate to promote the condo. Buyers, upon seeing that the condo is ABINC certified, might feel better about themselves for buying a nature-friendly apartment, which probably had a huge piece of land and habitat cleared for its construction, thus holding less concern for the loss of environment to development. Hence, is it ethical to believe that “Exploiting nature for human sustenance is not wrong if it allows other life to coexist” (Williams, 2010)? Despite these controversies, the developer’s decision to bring elements of nature into the urban to ensure sustainable living for both humans and the biodiversity makes this condo a positive change (ibid). However, ensuring that the wildlife do not hinder the daily lives of the condo inhabitants and that the inhabitants do not abuse the wildlife living in the vicinity will pose great difficulties for the future management.

(500 words)

Bibliography

The Japan Times. (2016). “New buzzword for Japan condo buyers: nature-friendly”. The Japan Times. Retrieved 30 August 2016, from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/04/12/business/new-buzzword-for-japan-condo-buyers-nature-friendly/#.V8WUivl96xA

Williams, B. (2010). “Satoyama: The Ideal and the Real”. Kyoto Journal, 75, pp. 24-29.

Eco-House, Machiya

Author: Wako Toyama

In this article, author says Machiya is very eco-friendly house.
Machiya  are traditional wooden townhouses found throughout Japan and typified in the historical capital of Kyoto.

Machiya is a long wooden home with narrow street frontage, and often containing one or more small courtyard gardens or tsuboniwa.The front of the building traditionally served as shop space.Behind this mise no ma (店の間, “shop space”), the remainder of the main building is divided into “living space”.

Why are they called Eco-House? It’s because Machiya are designed to live deliciously cool in summer without using electric power, or air conditioning fan.

But nowadays, Machiya are rapidly disappearing.

Between 1993 and 2003, over 20% of the machiya in Kyoto were demolished. Roughly forty percent of those demolished were replaced with new modern houses, and another 40% were replaced with high-rise apartment buildings, parking lots over 80% have suffered significant losses to the traditional appearance of their facades.

There are groups, however, which are taking action to protect and restore machiya in Kyoto. One such institution, the “Machiya Machizukuri Fund,” was established in 2005(two thousand and five)

The group works individual machiya owners to restore their buildings and to have them designated as “Structures of Landscape Importance” (景観重要建造物, keikan jūyō kenzōbutsu), under this designation, the structures are protected from demolition without the permission of the mayor of Kyoto.

I think we can learn eco-frindly systems from Machiya and apply it for constructing new house. And we have to restore Machiya because they are traditional houses and have very ‘green’ system.

 

 

Article

http://news.mynavi.jp/news/2013/07/19/273/index.html

 

References

http://www.hng.ne.jp/knowledge/article/320/3/

 

 

Fukushima Watch: Popular Ex-PM Koizumi Comes Out Against Nukes – Review

Author: George Nishiyama

Reviewer: Dora

As the title suggests, this article explains that Junichiro Koizumi, one of the most influential former prime minister in Japan, expressed his disagreement with the re-operation of the nuclear power plants in his recent conference in Nagoya. Mr. Koizumi claims that Japan “should aim to be nuclear-free” despite the fact that the current prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who reinstated the nuclear power plants is one of Mr. Koizumi’s disciples. Mr. Abe’s objective here is to improve the economy of Japan and he believes that one of the means to achieve this is through the supply of cheap power, thus reusing the nuclear power plants. However, a parallel between “the thinking of those who stress that the Japanese economy can’t survive without nuclear energy” to “the refusal of the Japanese Imperial Army to give up Manchuria,” (an incident that eventually led to Japan’s lost) was painted by Mr. Koizumi in his speech. Moreover, Mr. Koizumi asserts that “we (the government and private sector) can unite toward a dream of achieving a society based on renewable energy. Now is an opportunity, not a pinch.”

Japan is portrayed as a country that is developing towards a better environmental sustainability through an influential politician, Mr. Koizumi, who feels the important need to shift to the use of renewable energy from a nuclear one in this article. He strongly believes that Japan does not need to depend on the use of nuclear power plant to resurrect its economy. Moreover, Nishiyama’s choice of including the fact that Mr. Koizumi was also an individual who promoted nuclear reactors during his period as prime minister made the article particularly convincing.

Nishiyama implies that renewable energy is better than nuclear energy in this article. Therefore, the article describes the idea of ‘green’ as renewable, sustainable and nonhazardous towards human. In addition to this, being ‘green’ is an opportunity that can be realized through the unity of both government and private entities without harming the economy in the long run.

Reference:

Nishiyama, G. October 2, 2013. Fukushima Watch: Popular Ex-PM Koizumi Comes Out Against Nukes. The Wall Street Journal. [online] http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2013/10/02/popular-ex-pm-koizumi-comes-out-against-nuclear-power/

 

Japan to go non-nuclear for at least six months- Review

http://news.asiaone.com/news/asia/japan-go-non-nuclear-least-half-year

The Straits Times. Tuesday, 3 September, 2013.”Japan to go non‐nuclear for at least half a year”

This article talks about the present nuclear situation in Japan. After the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011, there has been a huge debate on the use of nuclear power in the country. A few of Japan’s nuclear reactors which have been closed for maintenance have not been restarted largely as a result of public backlash after the Fukushima disaster. The remaining two reactors are also due for maintenance and it is likely that the whole country will go non-nuclear for at least half a year. Recent reports on the leakage of radioactive water from storage tanks at Fukushima which has even drained into the sea are likely to dampen public’s enthusiasm for nuclear energy. As such, Japan is turning back to conventional energy sources such as thermal power plants to make up for the loss.

This switch back to the use of thermal energy seems to be the ‘green’ way forward for Japan. Reports in other magazines such as Niponica also show how Japan is trying to revitalize its disaster-stricken towns through the tapping of other forms of renewable energy. Here one may need to ask the question, what is considered ‘green’? Is nuclear energy considered ‘green’ still? Or is it no longer so due to the radiation threats that it is now posing to the people in the country? It seems that there is no fixed definition for ‘green’ energy, and we probably need to rethink before we attached a ‘green’ label to an energy source in the future.

Japan Solar Energy Soars, But Grid Needs to Catch Up

Japan Solar Energy Soars, But Grid Needs to Catch Up.” by Yvonne Chang

Reviewed by Dominic

Due to the recent Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, Japan has put a halt on most of its existing nuclear plants. As such, the government is seeking for alternative sources of energy.

The article highlights that Hokkaido is the target of large scale investment for the development of large areas of solar farms for solar energy harvesting as there is ample sunlight available throughout the year.

In the start of the article, the writer begins with the phrase “A new renewable energy incentive program has Japan on track to become the world’s leading market for solar energy, leaping past China and Germany, with Hokkaido at the forefront of the sun power rush.” (Chang, 2013).

I believe that the initial portrayal of Japan is of a country that has been constantly engaging in alternative energy sources. However, another image I feel should not be overlooked is that Japan is incapable of handling with the environment even though she has been attempting to engage environmental concerns. The writer argues that, for instance, the national electrical grid is still not well equipped to transmit electricity across the nation from the north to where it is needed.

I interpret the word ‘Green’ to be the efficient usage of resources as well as environmental conservation. The Japanese government has launched a slew of incentives such as the provision of tariffs to lessen the costs of developing solar technologies, but the grid is controlled by companies that operate on different transmission networks. Worse, because of the difference in the frequency of electricity provided, energy produced would not be able to reach many places (Chang, 2013). As such, while Japan may seem to pursue ‘Green’ interests with alternative sources of energy, but I believe that its inability makes it ‘not Green’.

References

Chang, Yvonne. “Japan Solar Energy Soars, But Grid Needs to Catch Up.” National Geographic.  August 14 2013. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2013/08/130814-japan-solar-energy-incentive/