We had obtained ISO 14001 certification for our environmental management system and were carrying out our management cycle accordingly, yet we still had difficulty raising awareness of people in the workplace and were unable to take bold steps toward energy efficiency. When the amendment of the Act on the Rational Use of Energy took effect in 2008, at a time when we felt the need to carry out really effective energy efficiency measures, someone at the Japanese Consumers' Co-operative Union introduced us to FINALGATE. That was in 2010. The decisive factors were the prospects of 15% energy savings based on the energy audit, that there were no up-front costs, and the impression from meeting and talking with the company that "We can do this together".
Since introducing the service at the headquarters, product center, seven delivery centers, and eight stores, each year the energy saving rate has grown, by 4.1%, 8.0%, and more. In fiscal 2013 we achieved 9.9% savings, for a cost reduction of 39.09 million yen. Recently the savings have trended around 11.3%. Some sites have even saved more than 20%. Okinawa being a place where electric power costs have always been high, the monetary savings have been great.
The energy saving tuning provided by FINALGATE is not a black box but is participatory, like individual switches installed in office work spaces, so the awareness of employees is naturally raised.
As a remote island chain, Okinawa is at a disadvantage in terms of information availability and number of specialists. There are still businesses that try to take advantage of this, going after subsidies without actually achieving benefits. I myself am no expert when it comes to energy, so the provision of proper consulting was very appealing.
We and FINALGATE are in the same boat, so to speak. The more energy is saved, the more they are paid, giving us the confidence that they will never do anything to disadvantage us. Whether in carrying out work, in making reports, or in consulting, everyone showed professional integrity.
It would be good if the website has a member page for contracted clients. Now the staff in charge at each site have come to consult directly, but they used to go through me much of the time. Since 17 sites have the service, it was quite a burden on me.
If the member page has a FAQ and examples of energy saving, it will be a good place for exchange of information, and I believe problem-solving may go faster. While I realize there are confidentiality issues, I hope you will consider something along those lines.
Co-op Okinawa is thinking about getting into the electric power business. We are still at the study phase, but as we proceed we will no doubt be needing expert decisions and negotiations.
While passing on to employees skills that can be passed on, such as energy saving tuning and equipment maintenance, we would like to receive support in highly specialized fields, chiefly consulting.
Interviewed / Photographed: September 2014