May 27, 2022 11:42 am

Global warming: how to respond to electricity demand without sacrificing comfort, according to a Japanese researcher

With a global panorama marked by the Climate emergencies posed by the effects of global warming, generation and consumption of energy are part of the challenge that people who live in large urban centers have to face. Technology poses an accelerated change in the daily life of cities, from the use of mobile devices to the incipient advance of electric cars in the most developed markets.

Topics like reduction of the carbon footprint and the generation of new sources of clean energy, such as the promising green hydrogen that is being produced in Patagonia, are some of the issues that began to set the agenda in public opinion. On the other side of the world, in a country marked by the ever-present energy demand of homes and industries, Professor Yoshiyuki Shimoda, from the University of Osaka, works on the great challenges faced by societies to reduce carbon emissions, but without neglecting the benefits that people have achieved thanks to technological progress.

“The study, called Urban Energy System, consists in study energy from the point of view of demand. The focus is on maintaining the current standard of living, but with an optimization of energy consumption and its use in different scenarios: in garbage, water, the sewage system, in biodigesters. There are many methods to generate energy and reduce CO2″, explains Shimoda about part of the study. On the other hand, demand presents many challenges, unlike generation, since the distribution networks must be stable in the face of the imminent arrival of new consumption that poses advances such as electric cars.

“It is a technology that consumes much more energy than a home, and that is something that we must consider if we want to have a stable electricity distribution network,” adds the researcher from the University of Osaka who participates in the Evaluation Committee on Energy and the Environment. Atmosphere of the upcoming World Expo Osaka 2025, which will take place on the futuristic island of Yumeshima.

For Shimoda, the goal of achieving a “decarbonized society” in the future does not depend only on the development of clean alternative energy sources, but also requires a reduction in demand. This is the central theme of the research led by the professor from the Urban Energy Systems Laboratory at Osaka University. One of the analyzes focuses on the infrastructure and design of cities, which deserve rethinking in this context.

“One of the biggest and most difficult challenges to lead is in the urban planification with energy efficiency. 50 years ago the great cities of Japan developed their suburbs. We must ask ourselves if this is good or not, or if we need compact cities, or another alternative, ”says Shimoda, in a context of a pandemic where remote work also directly impacts the ways of living in urban centers.

Yoshiyuki Shimoda, Professor at Osaka University and member of the Expo Osaka 2025 Evaluation Committee on Energy and Environment

Maybe not everyone needs to live in big cities. And we have to seriously think about whether we want concentrated and compact spaces, or extended ones. We have to find the optimal way”, adds the specialist.

In turn, on the side of the main energy generators and large industrial consumers, the limits already exist and there are no major margins for improvement in CO2 reduction. Although there are various developments that seek to meet the enormous goal that Japan sets for 2030 to reduce CO2 by 46%, for Shimoda the key lies in the attitude of consumers and households.

“Energy is very difficult to store and control. However, the parameter is in the way lights, heating and air conditioning are used. The proposition is: we must reduce our electricity consumption by half, but without resigning the comfort that we manage to achieveShimoda points out. For this, a transformation goes through a technological improvement, where gases such as fluorocarburo, used in refrigeration systems. “Air conditioners are being used more and more every day.We will not be able to avoid that. Lower consumption of this component in the new generation of household appliances will help reduce negative gases for the environment”.

Short-sleeved shirt, light colors and 28-degree air in summer, a formula used by the Japanese government for its Cool Biz campaign in 2005 to reduce energy consumption
Short-sleeved shirt, light colors and 28-degree air in summer, a formula used by the Japanese government for its Cool Biz campaign in 2005 to reduce energy consumptionShutterstock

As part of the organizing committee for Expo Osaka 2025, Shimoda also develops various carbon capture solutions in its laboratory as part of the many approaches it seeks to address the problems posed by global warming. “In the pavilions of the exhibition we will deal with the different studies on the use of hydrogen, renewable energy and a study dealing with CO2 capsules that are introduced into the earth and allow to reduce pollutionShimoda advanced.

In addition to proposals ranging from urban planning to the study of consumer energy demand, Shimoda also value the stock that, at first glance, seem too small actions against climate change. On the one hand, there is the use of the fan over the air conditioning, and on the other, the change of formal clothing according to the seasons of the year.

“These measures must be attractive to convince the public. In Japan, the government campaign was carried out Cool Biz, an initiative that promoted informal clothing to avoid energy consumption”, recalled the researcher about the initiative led by the Ministry of the Environment in 2005, then led by Yuriko Koike, current mayor of Tokyo. The use of cool clothes in summer, no jacket or tie, was accompanied by 28 degree adjustment of air conditioners in the public sector, and private companies were invited to follow these recommendations.

The impact of the measure was enormous. According to a government report, the measures helped reduce some 460 tons of carbon dioxide, an amount equivalent to amount of CO2 that generate a million homes for a month.

Over the years, the initiative gained momentum again to face the energy problems caused by the great earthquake in 2011. Accustomed to wearing a shirt, jacket and tie, Japanese workers once again became part of Super Cool Biz, the renewed campaign that once again highlighted the use of fresh clothing to reduce energy consumption in refrigeration systems.

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