Japan has hit on the world’s most effective energy conservation program. It is three words long: “Conserve, or else.” With 32 of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors down in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Japan must get through the hot summer without a total breakdown of the infrastructure. It looks like they will do it by sheer willpower.
It is impossible to live in Japan without daily reminders to save. Real-time graphs of current power usage have become as common to the Japanese weather report as the pollen forecast to America. Screens in subways and huge (powered) displays in public places remind me and my Japanese cohorts of how much power we are using and how little remains until lights out.
There is even an Android app that runs on my keitai and that warns me that the current usage rate hovers at 79.2 percent. And that while the temperature outside stands at very comfortable 72 degree F. If we hit the ominous red line on top of my Android, Tokyo will go dark. As my contribution to the cause, if the weather and conservation of power demand it, reports from Tokyo will be typed in shorts, with a bare chest, and the webcam disabled.
Japanese carmakers today announced their part in the great national power conservation. Automakers and their suppliers will re-arrange the calendar. Thursdays and Fridays will be off days. Saturday and Sunday it will be back to work. This long discussed plan was finally announced today during a press conference of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association JAMA. The plan will be in effect from July through September, explained Toshiyuki Shiga, chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association and chief operating officer of Nissan Motor Co.
Shiga dressed for the occasion. He wore “cool biz,” which is when Japanese salarymen lose their necktie during the day, something they used to do only after hours in a bar, when they have the tie wound around their heads, in banzai-fashion.
AP erroneously reported that Shiga wore “super cool biz.” He didn’t go THAT far – yet.
“Soon we’ll have ‘super cool biz’ and the businessmen come to the office in aloha shirts and flip flops.” When a dressed down Reuters cameraman told me that on Tuesday on the bus to Iwaki, I thought he was cracking a joke. But Japantoday tells me it’s official. Nothing is sacred anymore: The situation is so dire that coat and tie become a victim.
Just because JAMA announced the rearranged work week doesn’t mean that it will automatically be in effect.
A careful source at Nissan tells me that his company is “discussing the measure with all stakeholders.”
In the cool biz, Toyota is ahead of Nissan. “TMC has all intentions to cooperate fully with the proposed measures,” says Toyota spokesman Dion Corbett. His company is working on “prompt implementation.” After talks with labor representatives have been concluded, Toyota expects to announce a final plan beginning of next week.
Toyota has experience with such a plan. In July and August 1987, Toyota had worked on weekends and shut down on two days during the week as a cost saving measure. At the time, weekend utility rates were lower in Toyota City, and the company capitalized on this during July and August of that year.
In the meantime, companies and private citizens save wherever they can. In offices, the thermostats of the A/C are set to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Privately, A/C usage is becoming anti-social, morally even more reprehensible than dropping a plastic bottle into the recycled paper bin. Who knows, with all the conservation, maybe they won’t need all those power plants after all. Wouldn’t that be cool?