The World Energy Congress recently concluded in Montreal might have been a sleepwalk for the people deciding how to spin information to the public. (i.e. the last and second last press releases they issued contained identical text under a different heading - and the error has been in place for over a day with apparently no one noticing)
That doesn't take away from the fact there was extensive information exchanged during the congress. One example: in a presentation entitled Global Energy Mix in 2030: Cost-effective Solutions to the Global Energy Challenges, by Peter Leupp, head of ABB Power Systems division, one revealing slide alone
This may not be news, per se, but it is a bit of information that could be glossed over. And there is no getting around the basic fact of it. It deserves to be put out there for a little more attention. Here we are spending trillions to re-engineer civilization's infrastructure, when all we really need to do is change some habits. Yes, it could be said that Japan has smaller distances to transport goods and fewer temperature extremes than the U.S. or Canada. The fact remains, we could hurdle huge expanses of energy efficiency simply by behaving a little more Japanese. Following is the slide and text that went with it...
A closer look at Japan can give us some clues as to how the barriers can be overcome. Japan and US are the two largest mature economies, yet the US uses twice as much primary energy to generate the same output.
The reasons include:
Japan has maintained its commitment to energy efficiency since the first oil shock in the 1970s
Eg, Japan’s steel industry has invested ca. $45 billion in developing energy-saving technologies between 1972 and 2006. JFE Steel, Japan’s second-largest steel producer, estimates that global adoption of the energy efficiency measures it uses in steel production would cut global steel industry emissions by 300 million tons per year.
Japan’s energy-intensive industrial facilities are required to reduce their energy intensity by 1% per year
Japanese government subsidizes purchases of energy-efficient home appliances, homes and vehicles.
Japan’s “Top Runner” program sets efficiency standards for products sold in Japan. The most efficient product on the market becomes the new benchmark and others have to get within a certain margin of energy consumption within a fixed time. Involvement of those subject to regulation in setting the targets is key to success.
Price of energy
Eg, electricity consumption for Japanese households is ca. 2x more expensive than in the US, while electricity consumption per $1 of GDP is half the US level
Storage of electricity
Most of world installed base of sodium sulfur batteries is in Japan. They are used to store off-peak power to help meet peak demand.
Strong moral incentive to achieve maximum efficiency. Saving resources deeply rooted in national conscience.