Top Ten Highlights of Cleantech in Tokyo

Tokyo, as the capital of Japan, has increased its research, development, and commercialization of clean technologies, especially renewable energy and energy efficiency. Ranked high on the list of cities with the largest carbon footprints, Tokyo has realized the need to lower greenhouse gas emissions and lessen the dependence on fossil fuels to run the city. Through numerous initiatives, programs, councils, and projects, Tokyo is well on its way to making itself a star cleantech capital.

1) Tokyo Renewable Energy Strategy. To increase the ability of cleantech to impact the city, Tokyo has come to the necessary conclusion that future strategies must be concocted to prevent the risks associated with climate change and promote renewable energy expansion, not just throughout Tokyo or China, but on an international platform. As Japan’s central business hub, Tokyo consumes the most energy and creates the largest carbon footprint in the whole country. Tokyo concluded that they must reduce reliance on fossil fuels, coals, and other non-renewable energy sources. The strategy requires the establishment of a system that will support renewable energy, energy efficiency, and the environment.

2) Tokyo Green Building Program. The Tokyo Green Building Program is in response to the need to reduce the city’s carbon footprint and construct buildings that are environmentally friendly and energy efficient. The program started in 2002, it “compels building owners to submit plans outlining energy conservation measures and other initiatives based on environmental considerations and assessments.”

3) Japan Council for Renewable Energy. The Japan Council for Renewable Energy, shortened to JCRE, is to increase the path toward energy sustainability. Housed in Tokyo, the Japan Council for Renewable Energy plans to assist with research and development of energy sustainability and renewable energy. The council holds an international conference every four years in Tokyo to discuss renewable energy topics, a yearly international exhibition, and a yearly international forum. In line with the philosophy of the organization, which is to locate advanced technologies toward global sustainability they house various support activities.

4) Tokyo Trading Emissions. Tokyo, one of the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide, has set emission limits for 1,400 factories and offices. They must meet these limits by utilizing renewable energy technologies, including solar panels and other advanced devices that save fuel. By beating the target listed, the factories and businesses will earn credits that may be sold to those buildings that do not reach the target. The CO2 policy is similar to the one set up in California. According to a WWF Japan climate change program leader, Maoyuki Yamagishi, “This is an epoch-making step. Each company for the first time will have to come up with a strategy to control its emissions and meet a target that is obligatory.” This plan is to assist in reaching a national reduction in CO2 emissions by 25 percent in 2020, based on 1990 levels.

5) Use of Fuel-Celled Powered Busses. Toward the closing of 2010, Tokyo added fuel-celled powered buses throughout the main thoroughfares of the city. They will be running a regular service. these eco-friendly buses will be running along two separate routes and service different portions of Tokyo’s large Metropolitan Expressway. To accommodate the use of these fuel-cell powered buses, Tokyo installed two hydrogen fueling stations. The bus project is part of the larger shift Tokyo is making to utilize alternative sources of energy for transportation purposes. It is the hope of the government that this project will increase reliance of hydrogen and reduce fossil fuel reliance, thereby cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

6) Tokyo Manufactures Energy Generating Floors in Subway. When walking around the Tokyo Station, be sure to look down as the East Japan Railway Company installed a piezoelectric energy generating floor. The floor actually absorbs energy generated by commuters and transfers it to use on power ticket gates as well as the display systems. In an area with heavy foot traffic, it makes sense to tap into this previously untapped energy source. It is about 25 square meters of flooring that will assist in obtaining 1,400 KW per day.

7) Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies. Located in Tokyo is the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies. This institute is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 2000 by climate change campaigners and energy experts. Provided by the institute are the required services and resources necessary to create effective sustainable energy policies. They promote renewable energy, restructuring of the energy market, and energy efficiency improvement. They hold a number of symposiums geared toward providing recommendations for policy on energy efficiency and renewable energy for the Japanese government. They work alongside many international organizations to exchange and introduce information on policies regarding sustainable energy.

8 ) Green University of Tokyo Project. Established in 2008, the Green University of Tokyo Project is composed of numerous private companies and nonprofit organizations, which use the Hongo campus at the University of Tokyo to test new energy efficient and renewable energy technologies. They design and implement systems that are eco-friendly and work along with existing technologies.

9) Grass-Coated Green-Roofed Parking Garage Concept. An urban parking garage is betting an environmentally friendly makeover – the Shinjuku Gardens is looking to transform a parking lot into a multifunctional garage development that includes a rooftop garden. Proposed by Cheungovgi, this grass-walled, two story indoor garage offers public parking spaces. Not only would this garage look nice, but it will also provide the additional benefit of filtering the air in the large, bustling city, lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

10) Tokyo Trials Electric Vehicle Filling Stations in an Effort to Increase Green Transportation. The first public trial of a recharge center that “refills” electric vehicles in just a few minutes will be tested this month in Tokyo. The Californian company, Better Place, is looking to take its automated battery-swap systems across the pond in an effort to satisfy the ambitions of the company to build the first global infrastructure networks for electric vehicles. The robotic mechanism swaps out an empty batter for a new one that is fully charged. This cuts down refill times from several hours to just under several minutes.

Article by Shawn Lesser, president and founder of Atlanta-based Sustainable World Capital, which is focused on fund-raising for private equity cleantech/sustainable funds, as well as private cleantech companies and M&A. He is also a co- founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association, and can be reached at

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