Japanese companies increase use of renewable energy

Courtesy of Starbucks Coffee Japan, Ltd.
A Starbucks Coffee shop that uses electricity generated by a hydropower plant is seen in Toyama Prefecture.

Japanese companies are actively participating in the march toward decarbonization, with moves stepping up to switch the energy needed to run office buildings and shops to renewable sources.

Aeon Co. supplies clean electricity and gas for its new mall in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture. These effectively produce no carbon dioxide emissions, such as electricity generated from renewable energy sources and gas that utilizes an emissions trading system. The company said that Aeon Mall Kawaguchi, which opened June 8, is the first large-scale commercial facility in Japan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions.

Advocating a goal of effectively cutting CO2 emissions to zero by 2050 in its business operation, Aeon plans to further increase the use of renewable energy.

Starbucks Coffee Japan, Ltd. will switch all the energy used in its business to renewable energy sources at about 350 shops, or about 20% of its total outlets in Japan, by the end of October. The company has already done so at about 300 of its shops.

Even among business offices, moves toward renewable energy sources have been ongoing, even though the cost may be higher.

The Nippon Life Insurance Co. switched the electricity at the Tokyo headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, to that generated from renewable sources in June. The insurer has already adopted it at its Osaka head office since fiscal 2020, resulting in electricity fees rising by 10%. The company has accepted this increased burden.

“As an institutional investor, we would like to push ahead with a decarbonization effort in our own company so as to promote it among our clients,” said an official in charge of public relations.

Tokio Marine Holdings, Inc. will also decarbonize its business at the key operating bases in 46 countries and regions around the world, aiming to convert all of their electricity to renewable energy by fiscal 2030.

Mitsui Fudosan Co. intends to source all the electricity from renewable sources for common areas in some of its own property. By fiscal 2030, the company will do so in about 120 such facilities it owns in the Tokyo metropolitan area, including Tokyo Midtown, a large-scale, multipurpose complexes.

According to the Environment Ministry, commercial and business establishments account for 17% of the total CO2 emissions in Japan. Since a high percentage of CO2 emissions come from the use of electricity in offices and stores, the use of renewable energy in these places will directly lead to a reduction in emissions.

While the use of renewable energies has been advancing among large companies, the burden of assuming higher costs has become a challenge for small and midsize firms to do likewise.

Takahide Kiuchi, an executive economist at Nomura Research Institute, Ltd., said, “To enhance the percentage of renewable energy in the country as a whole, it is necessary not only for those business firms and individuals to understand the importance but also for the central government to support such efforts.”