|Final 10 Years of the 20th Century the Hottest on Record
Japanese ESCOs Provide Own Capital for Energy Investment
Monitoring Atmospheric CO2 Using Standard Gases
Using Nature's Cycles to Help the Environment
|Global warming is one of the gravest concerns humankind now faces. The following articles present a picture of how several Japanese companies are working to address this problem from a variety of angles, including the crucial challenges of greenhouse gas reduction and energy conservation. Their efforts hold promise for a better environment for future generations.|
|Final 10 Years of the 20th Century the Hottest on Record|
|In 1997, many countries came together at the Kyoto summit on global warming (COP3), where they drafted the Kyoto Protocol.
The Kyoto Protocol was a revolutionary document setting legally binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries as well as specific benchmarks for achieving these goals.
The Kyoto Protocol was a dramatic step forward in the fight against global warming, but it can hardly solve the issue overnight. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the 1990s was the hottest decade on record. For example, last year a record-breaking heat-wave swept Europe, taking some 20,000 lives; the WHO estimates that global warming accounted for about 150,000 deaths in 2000, while the phenomenon adversely affects the health of up to 5.5 million.
Meanwhile, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the U.S. has reported that snow melt rates in higher latitudes such as Alaska have been increasing since 1988, a phenomenon which the agency considers to be the result of global warming. Furthermore, C02 trapped in arctic soil has been increasingly leaking into the atmosphere, serving to exacerbate global warming itself.
One of the best ways to stop this process is energy conservation. By decreasing the amount of fossil fuels we use, we can cut our greenhouse emissions and the warming effects they exert.
|Goal: 1% Annual Improvement in Energy Efficiency|
|Sumitomo Light Metal Industries, Ltd. is one company that has made conserving energy a priority since way back in 1973. The companys prime business is rolled aluminum products such as sheets and extrusions as well as rolled copper products such as copper or copper alloy pipes. Smelting of aluminum is well known as a process requiring high energy costs. Also, as an aluminum fabricator, Sumitomo Light Metal has always faced massive energy expenditures for the repeated heating and cooling fabricating process requires. The total energy consumption of the companys Nagoya Works alone (including electricity, LNG, and oil) was equivalent to 190,000 kiloliters of crude oil, or more than ¥6 billionwhich is why the company set up a special task force in 1978 composed of energy experts. Its mission was to improve the companys energy efficiency, a mission it accomplished with remarkable results. The companys oil efficiency has improved by as much as 40% in terms of energy expended per unit of production since the first oil crisis in 1973.
However, the market then began to demand value-added goods such as cans with ever thinner aluminum sides, a trend that began to reverse previous energy efficiency gains. This prompted Sumitomo Light Metal to turn to Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), an approach in which small groups are used to eliminate inefficiencies in all production processes.
The company also improved its environmental stance by setting up an environmental committee 13 years ago. The committee, whose purpose was to make the entire company more environmentally friendly, was later reorganized into separate environment and energy committees, demonstrating the companys awareness that energy efficiency is an integral part of environmental friendliness. Currently, the company has set an ambitious goal for energy efficiency: Achieve at least 1% annual improvement from the base year (1995) until 2010.
Masaru Tatematsu, a manger of engineering & maintenance department at the Nagoya Works, says: Our current production levels are two to three times what they were when we began our energy efficiency programs. Since then, weve continuously found new ways of eliminating energy waste from our production, improving both our operating rates and our defect rates. We also set up a system of energy managers, a post that requires passing a national exam. Right now we have 36 such energy managers13 here in Nagoya Works alone. Weve also enacted company-funded energy programs for factory operators to give them greater maintenance expertise. Our ideal is for every employee to be energy aware, and for each small contribution to energy efficiency to add up to great savings.
|Energy Efficiency: the Best of Both Worlds|
|Starting in 2001, the Nagoya Works enlisted the services of an energy service company (ESCO). ESCOs are enterprises that specialize in improving the energy efficiency of other corporations. Their comprehensive approach begins with an energy audit, followed by an energy savings plan and finally supplying new equipment and technology. After Sumitomo Light Metal signed a contract with The First Energy Service Company, Limited. (FESCO), FESCO did a comprehensive energy audit covering current energy conservation measures, the effectiveness of waste-heat recovery, and an assessment of the benefits of implementing large-scale cogeneration systems, then it proposed a mid- to long-term energy-conservation plan. Already the company has installed a steam turbine-assisted compressor and a power inverter to control pump speed. These and other measures are expected to result in energy savings of ¥78 million per year for the Nagoya Works, not to mention a commensurate reduction in CO2 and other greenhouse-gas emissions.
Increased energy efficiency contributes to the bottom line and also helps fight global warming. It truly is the best of both worlds, says Makoto Ohtani, manager of the Environmental Management Office.