Japan: Land of Rising Energy Conservation

The average household here used 4,177 kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2001, the most recent figure, according to the Jyukankyo Research Institute in Tokyo. In the same year, the average American household consumed more than twice that, or 10,655 kilowatt hours, according to the Energy Department.

Published: 07-Jan-2007

TOKYO, Jan. 5 — In many countries, higher oil prices have hurt pocketbooks and led to worries about economic slowdowns. But here in Japan, Kiminobu Kimura, an architect, says he has not felt the pinch. In fact, his monthly energy bill is lower than a year ago.

A reason is his new home fuel cell, a machine as large and quiet as a filing cabinet that sits in front of his house and turns hydrogen into electricity and cold water into hot — at a fraction of regular utility costs. But even with the futuristic device, which is available for now only in Japan, Mr. Kimura has not let up on the other shortcuts that leave him unscathed by last year’s oil squeeze.

Energy-efficient appliances abound in the many corners of his cramped home. There is the refrigerator that beeps when left open and the dishwasher that is compact enough to sit on the kitchen counter. In some homes, room heaters have a sensor that directs heat only toward occupants; there are "energy navigators" that track a home’s energy use.

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