More energy conservation measures are being unveiled, as the summer heat approaches and Japan's nuclear reactors remain shut down -- with the the focus on reopening only two Kansai Electric-operated reactors by July.
About 10 days ago an interesting report about JR East's efforts to improve the efficiency of its commuter train networks. Already, JR East generates a significant portion (57% as of 2010) of its own electricity from four generation facilities.
It has for many years used "regenerative braking" technology -- similar to automotive hybrids, but sending the electricity back onto the wires -- and this system is now installed on 88% of its trains.
But the current system only works when one train served by the same substation needs to draw power from a second train that is braking. It does not work for uncrowded lines that have only a single train on a long section of track. The system will be expanded, with addition of NiMH battery storage and upgraded IT/communications systems, so that regenerated energy can be used more widely across the netowrk and stored until needed.
The new IT/communication and storage network will also permit JR East to effectively utilize solar power that it plans to generate using installations on train station rooftops, rights of way, etc.
Private railways and the Tokyo Metro subway are studying similar measures, implementing LED lighting in train carriages, etc.
Another report in the May 31 newspapers notes that JR East also has developed a superconducting cable that it believes will be relatively easy to install on its network to replace existing cables. The existing cables lose 10% of the electricity in the form of heat, whereas with the superconducting cable loss is near 0%.
Finally, consumers are buying large numbers of electric fans this year, as last -- for cooling at much lower energy consumption than air conditioning units. Consumers also are installing LED lighting to replace incandescent and even compact flourescent bulbs. A survey company reports that in one week in May, ceiling lighting fixtures sold in the Kanto/Tokyo area were 66% LED, while in Kansai/Osaka they were 71% LED. Of course, LEDs now form a large share of aftermarket bulbs sold.
And under the new "cool biz" guidelines, you can wear Hawaiian shirts and sandals in the office to try to keep cool.