Japan's Energy Saving Drive Changes the Work Week

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At Nissan’s Oppama Plant, Wednesdays are the new Fridays.

A work week beginning on Saturday and ending Wednesday is part of a government-mandated drive to cut energy use 15 percent, coming in the wake of Japan's devastating March 11 earthquake that starkly reduced available power supply.

At Nissan factories, "setsuden”, or energy-saving activities are intended to conserve power use in the peak summer months, with measures including spreading out shift work to ease midday electricity demand and installing smart-meters to help plant managers regulate power use, says Yuji Kishi, Senior Manager in charge of environment and energy control.

“As the requirement is to reduce the peak power consumption by 15 percent, it's important to think of how to keep energy consumption flat throughout the day. We couldn’t do this without a lot of cooperation from our colleagues.”

Office staffers are also chipping in, as the new Saturday-Wednesday schedule means starting - and leaving - earlier.

At Nissan's Yokohama headquarters, lighting and air conditioner systems, used sparingly since 3-11, now promptly shut down at 6:30 p.m. on nearly all floors.

Measures that are being implemented across the auto industry and at other Japanese manufacturers will wind down in late September, but Kishi says "setsuden" will trigger renewed efforts to cut dependency on Japanese power companies.

“We couldn't create a system to generate electricity ourselves this time, as we didn't have enough time. For instance, we considered reducing power consumption by generating renewable energy on our own. That's the area we would like to challenge in the future."

For now, though, the challenge remains to keep Japan’s factories running - and just not at times of peak energy demand as nearly four months after the twin disasters the possibility of limited energy blackouts outside of Tokyo is still a very real possibility.

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Issued by Nissan