I read an article last week in the Nikkei newspaper announcing a new Tokyo subsidy for the Enefarm residential fuel cell generators distributed by Tokyo Gas. The products are manufactured by, among others, Panasonic. A new model was released this winter -- both lower in price and smaller in size than before. Could it be that a natural gas-powered fuel cell generator and hot water heater would finally be at a price that makes economic sense?
In previous years, the subsidies for Enefarm devices have been used up quickly, and we had been looking for ways, ANY ways, to reduce our electricity consumption, so we arranged for a consultation.
The system would cost 1.7 million yen, plus 50,000 for gas-related construction. Then we would get a 400,000 yen subsidy back, for a total cost of 1.35 million yen. How much would we save? The advertisements said approximately 50,000 yen per year, but surely we would do better than that, given our large house and its electricity bills.
No. Apparently the way the system works you do not generate electricity unless you are otherwise consuming gas to heat water. We do not use much gas, ... and even worse, our gas consumption is split between two separate flash heaters, one on the roof (for 2nd and 3rd Floor) and another at ground level (for bath and 1st floor plumbing). So the simulation shows we would save .... 20,000 yen a year. Even with the subsidy, a 67.5 year payback schedule. Apparently the system is designed to do best with a typical Japanese family of 4 or more, gas cooking, gas hot water (and daily bath -- instead of alternating bath and shower, as we do).
The gentleman who visited our house suggested that maybe we would want to do it even WITH the limited savings, to do our part to cut electricity consumption. No thank you.
We will keep looking for other, higher cost-performance alternatives. And, frankly, as a Tokyo taxpayer, I wish the government would spend it subsidy money on something a bit more low tech and higher bang for the buck -- incentives for insulation, double or triple glazed windows, replacing any remaining incandescent lighting, etc., etc.