Posts Tagged ‘eco points’

Solar soon to be heating up in Tokyo

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

An old solar heating system collector

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident solar energy as a concept has become more attractive to the average person, and the central government’s recent passage of a law to promote renewable energies should help make solar power more widespread. Of course, solar power isn’t perfect, but not so much for the reasons nuclear apologists put forth. For instance, those who say solar energy is basically inefficient point to the fact that the electricity generated by household solar collectors is the equivalent in power of only 10 percent of the energy collected. This is a specious argument since sunlight is, for the time being at least, free, so we’re talking 10 percent of something that is constant and endless and which, untapped, just vanishes into the ether. It’s not like wasting the potential energy derived from gas or oil, since those are by definition finite energy sources.

The problem with solar energy is mainly a political one. According to the renewable energy law, which was sent to the cabinet for approval a day before the earthquake of March 11, power companies are obliged to buy excess energy from home solar systems. Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced last spring that it would buy electricity derived from solar collectors from private homes at double its usual rate. What the utility didn’t say so openly was that this expense would be reflected in electricity bills for all TEPCO customers. One of the main selling points of home solar systems is that, over time, the sale of excess energy to power companies would pay for the systems themselves, which are very expensive, though prices are coming down. People of limited means, which probably describes most households these days, can’t enjoy such benefits because they can’t afford to install solar systems. In the end, they help pay for the systems of the more well-off through their electric bills, not to mention schemes like eco points, which use tax money. So while some may claim that the greater good — greater reliance on solar energy — is worth it, the policy as it’s now carried out is inherently unfair.

A more equitable idea at the household level is using sunlight for heating rather than generating electricity. Solar collectors for heating water have been commercially available for years, and in terms of efficiency — 40 percent — beat out solar collectors for electricity. Since 2009, the Tokyo metropolitan government has been planning to subsidize solar collectors for home heating purposes. They will give people up to ¥500,000 if they install a solar heater in a new house. Condominium builders will also receive some kind of incentive. Recently, Tokyo solicited solar heater manufacturers, 60 of whom applied for approval. Fifty-one were selected whose products will be eligible for the subsidies.

It is the first time a local government has encouraged through subsidies the installation of solar heaters, which have never been so popular even though they are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. The hot water that is produced can not only be used for baths, showers and washing, but also for room heating if the home has a radiant heating system installed in the baseboards or the floors. Such systems, of course, can help households save on energy bills and do not produce extra carbon dioxide, which is the main benefit for Tokyo since local governments have been charged by the government with reducing their carbon output. More important, these savings are not at the expense of other households who do not have the system installed. Solar heating is self-contained, and therefore self-reliant.

Not easy being green: Eco-point system tests patience

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

This checklist could save your life

This checklist could save your life

By now a lot of people have taken advantage of the government’s Eco-point system, which proffers yen-value points when you purchase goods that have been deemed energy-saving in some shape or form. These points can be redeemed for putatively eco-friendly goods and services. We’ve already noted that the system seems to be designed to stimulate the economy rather than save the environment, but since the economy really does need stimulating I probably shouldn’t be complaining.

But others certainly are complaining, not so much because the Eco-point system is hypocritical about energy-saving (it is, but more on that later), but rather because it’s such a royal pain in the neck. The Web is full of detailed grousing about the paperwork necessary for redeeming one’s points. Some people have found it so complicated that they’ve actually given up — and these are Japanese. Since any explanations in English on how to redeem points are cursory at best (the bureaucracies in charge of the system don’t provide English instructions themselves), many non-Japanese are effectively shut out of the deal.

Several weeks ago we bought a new television at a discount store. The purchase earned us 12,000 Eco-points. When you buy an item that qualifies, the saleperson gives you a spiel about what to do. If consumers aren’t prepared for the spiel — and I doubt that many are — much of it will go over their heads. The salesman gives you several forms, including an application that he himself will partially fill out and a checklist that will help you go through the steps for filling out the application. He will tell you that you must fill out the warranty card that comes with your purchase. Most people never bother doing that until they have a problem with their purchase and need to get it fixed. But to redeem your Eco-points you have to fill in all the information on your warranty card, make a photocopy of it, and attach the photocopy to your application.

Continue reading about Eco-points in Japan →

Old eco points vs. new eco points: Where’s the savings?

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

7,000 eco points if you buy by Mar. 31! And look at that price!

7,000 eco points if you buy by Mar. 31! And look at that price!

The government’s eco point system was started last May as a means of promoting the sale of energy-saving home appliances by offering points for particular products that could be traded in for discounts on other products or services whose energy-saving bona fides aren’t always so apparent (high class beef?) but just goes to show that the main purpose of the system is stimulating the economy — local economies, chiefly — rather than promoting more efficient use of resources.

The system will change on April 1, mainly for televisions. The energy-saving standards that qualify for eco points will be made stricter starting April 1, which is traditionally when home electronics makers come out with their new lines of products. New TVs will have to use 33 percent less energy than last year’s standard for eco points, and as a result retailers are busy pushing their inventories of old TVs because after March 31 many of those models won’t be eligible for eco points any more.

Continue reading about eco-points →

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