TOKYO (AP) – Tokyo Shibuya is famous for its Scramble Crossing, where crowds of people cross the intersection in a scene that symbolizes the congestion and anonymity of urban Japan. Perhaps this added another right of boasting.
Tokyu Railways, which run through Shibuya and other stations, from April 1 were converted to electricity only from solar and other renewable sources.
This means that carbon dioxide emissions in Tokyo’s extensive network of seven trains and one tram are now zero, and green energy is used at all its stations, including for vending machines, security camera screens and lighting.
Tokyu, which employs 3,855 people and connects Tokyo with neighboring Yokohama, is the first railway operator in Japan to achieve this goal. It says the reduction in carbon dioxide is equivalent to the average annual emissions of 56,000 Japanese households.
Nicholas Little, director of railroad education at the Center for Railway Research and Education at the University of Michigan, praised Tokyo for promoting renewable energy, but stressed the importance of increasing the profits of that renewable energy.
“I would like to emphasize that the increase in the production of electricity from renewable sources has a greater impact,” he said. “The long-term struggle is to increase renewable electricity production and provide transmission infrastructure to deliver it to places of consumption.”
The technology used by Tokyu trains is one of the most environmentally friendly options for railways. The other two options are batteries and hydrogen power.
And so it’s just a publicity stunt, or is Tokyo moving in the right direction?
Rio Takagi, a professor at Kagakuin University and a specialist in electric rail systems, believes the answer is not easy because the development of train technology is complex and depends on many uncertain social factors.
In a nutshell, Tokyo’s efforts are definitely harmless and probably better than doing nothing. They show the company is taking on the task of promoting clean energy, he said.
“But I’m not going to praise him as great,” Takagi said.
He said greater benefits would come from switching from diesel trains in rural areas to hydrogen-powered lines and from switching gas-consuming cars to electric ones.
Tokyo has paid an undisclosed amount to Tokyo Electric Power Co., the company behind the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, for certification that guaranteed the use of renewable energy, even as Japan continues to use coal and other fossil fuels.
“We don’t see this as achieving our goal, but just the beginning,” said assistant manager Yoshimas Keaton at Tokyo headquarters, a short walk from Scramble Crossing.
Such steps are crucial for Japan, the world’s sixth-largest carbon emitter, to achieve its goal of becoming neutral by 2050.
Only about 20 percent of Japan’s electricity comes from renewable sources, according to the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policy, an independent nonprofit research organization based in Tokyo.
This lags far behind New Zealand, for example, where 84 per cent of the energy used comes from renewable energy sources. New Zealand hopes to do so 100 percent by 2035.
Renewable sources that drive Tokyo trains include hydropower, geothermal energy, wind and solar energy, according to Tokyo Electric Power Co., a company that provides electricity and monitors its energy sources.
Tokyo has more than 100 kilometers (64 miles) of railroad tracks that serve 2.2 million people a day, including “payers” and “payers” and schoolchildren in uniform.
After the nuclear disaster Fukushimawhen a tsunami caused by a powerful earthquake caused the melting of three reactors, Japan shut down most of its nuclear power plants and expanded the use of coal-fired power plants.
By 2030, the country aims to get 36 to 38 percent of its energy from renewable sources, while reducing overall energy use.
Tokyu Railways sought to publish its efforts through posters and clips on YouTube.
However, Ruichi Yagi, who heads his own company, which used to make ties but switched to wallets, was surprised to learn that he was riding a “green train”.
“I had no idea,” he said.
Yagi changed his business because of the “cool business” movement in Japan. It encourages male office workers to collect open-cut short-sleeved suits and shirts to save energy while minimizing air conditioning during the hot summer months.
In a sense, he said, “I live a very green life.”