Japan: five stars for low-energy gadgets

We’ve been very internationalist lately, what with the World Wind Wars, and our travelling colleague Rob’s insights on energy-saving in China  and elsewhere in the East.  We’d be the first to admit we’ve been ‘virtually visiting’ Asia a lot recently.

We’re in Japan today – a place where an environmental crisis has become an energy-saving mission, with not a lot of dramatics in between. 

Japanese consumers have been quick torise to the challenges raised by the Fukushima nuclear accident, as  this article says. The famous neon lights of Tokyo have been dimmed, escalators reverted to steps, and business hours cut to conserve electricity at night. Government workers have even been getting up extra early (and even dressing casual!) to make the most of daylight hours in a bid to cut electricity usage by 15 per cent.

The energy-saving trend crosses over from public to private – a woman cited in the piece estimated that her monthly electricity bill had fallen from 18,000 during the same period last year to only 11,000 yen, after making simple changes like not leaving the TV on in the background and switching off lights in empty rooms.

But behaviour change needs a little innovation to make a big impact. Those stranded in their Nissan Leafs by a shortfall in electricity may soon be saved by a useful, if not quite so green, emergency generator; but we think Japan’s most interesting development  is a rapid shift towards energy-efficient electrical goods, reported recently by the BBC.

From LED lighting to fridges, to air conditioning systems that sense the number of people and the activity level in a room, energy-saving products are being snapped up by energy-conscious buyers eager to keep their homes running on reduced energy supplies. Here in the UK most people see energy efficiency ratings on electrical items as a beneficial, but optional, ‘plus’ – but apparently there’s nothing like a real supply crisis to get consumers to act.  It’s something to think about as we contemplate our skyrocketing gas and electricity bills this summer.

But how easy is it for the Japanese shopper to find the most efficient appliance?

Well, our Energy Saving Trust Recommended label isn’t quite global yet. If you told someone in Tokyo or Nagasaki to ‘look for the label’ it would probably mean something like the image above, coupled with the Energy Star, which started in the US and is now fairly universal. The main thing is that they have a label to look for.  (And if we ever do think of going international , Japan might be a good place to start…)