A Japanese First: Tokyu Rail Switches All Trains to Renewables

Soon it will be a little easier to breathe in Tokyo. Starting today, Japan's Tokyu Corporation will run all its railway services on solar, geothermal and hydropower energy, becoming the first Japanese railway operator to rely entirely on renewables. The move is expected to cut the company's railway emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) to zero.

Tokyu will buy non-fossil certificates for electricity to use on all seven of the lines it runs in the Tokyo area, including the capital city's busy Shibuya Station - a total of 100 kilometers (60 miles) - and another line across neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture. A daily total of some 3.17 million riders travel on Tokyu’s eight train lines.

Tokyu Railways said it will purchase non-fossil fuel certificates for its electricity supplies along all its lines in the Tokyo area. Non-fossil certificates are issued by local governments, and are used to prove that a certain amount of energy was generated by renewables. The certificates are available for purchase by companies, and this demand for clean energy enables utilities to expand their renewables production.

AS A COMPANY CELEBRATING ITS 100th ANNIVERSARY IN 2022, A COMPANY THAT HAS ACHIEVED SUSTAINABLE GROWTH, OVER THE NEXT 100 YEARS, THREE SUSTAINABILITY GOALS – SUSTAINABLE URBAN DEVELOPMENT, SUSTAINABLE CORPORATE DEVELOPMENT AND SUSTAINABLE HUMAN RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT – HAVE BEEN ADOPTED AS A BASIC POLICY THAT EMBODIES OUR GOAL OF BEING.

Kazuo Takahashi

President Tokyu Corporation

Trains on Tokyu's Toyoko Line that connects Tokyo's Shibuya station (Photo by Maeda Akihiko)
Trains on Tokyu's Toyoko Line that connects Tokyo's Shibuya station (Photo by Maeda Akihiko)

Tokyu has reassured its riders that the increased costs of acquiring renewable energy will not cause a rise in train fares, because the firm plans to introduce more new electricity-sparing trains shortly.

The electricity to run the Tokyu trains is produced hundreds of kilometers away from Japan's capital city at the Matsukawa geothermal power plant in Iwate Prefecture and at the Ogoshi hydroelectric power plant in Yamagata Prefecture - both in the north of Japan’s main island.

Tokyu has said that electricity consumption for its operations will total more than 350 million kilowatt-hours in fiscal 2022.

For the Tokyu Corp., the pivot to geothermal and hydroelectric energy is part of its aspiration to contribute to a low-carbon society based on renewables. This aim furthers the company's mid-term management plan of creating sustainable growth and promoting sustainable urban development. Tokyu plans to cut its overall company emissions by 46.2 percent by 2030 and aims to eliminate its CO2 emissions entirely by 2050.

Since March 25, 2019, the light rail line has been using geothermal power supplied by Tohoku Electric Power Co. through the Tokyo Power Supply. Tokyu's Setagaya Line in Japan's capital has been running on renewable energy generated by hydropower and geothermal power plants since 2019, with the eco-friendly initiative now expanding to its remaining seven lines.

The companies involved in the renewable energy project say they recognize its social value as they anticipate the initiative will increase the value for residents along the rail lines when they can breathe cleaner air. The companies maintain that this recognition gives riders the power to push for change.

Through Tokyu's switch from diesel-powered trains to renewables, the company expects the reduction of its CO2 emissions to be roughly equivalent to the emissions produced by about 56,000 typical Tokyo households in a year.

The core businesses of the Tokyu Corporation and the Tokyu Group are transportation, real estate, hotels and resorts. The railway business was split off from the rest in October 2019 and the operation of Tokyu Railway Co., Ltd. began.

Even so, emissions from Tokyu's railway sector make up about 30 percent of the company's overall annual carbon output. The operator plans to slash emissions by 46.2 percent from 2019 levels in 2030, and management aims to cut the the company's emissions to virtually zero by 2050.

Tokyu Railway joined RE100 on October 25, 2019, making it the first Japanese railway company to publicly commit to using all renewable energy. RE100, which stands for "Renewable 100 percent,” has attracted more than 125 corporations committed to achieving 100 percent renewable electricity. RE100 members are required to have clear renewable energy goals, and their progress is reported annually to maintain the transparency and credibility of the initiative.

AS A REPRESENTATIVE COMPANY OF THE TOKYU GROUP, WE WILL PROMOTE COOPERATION BETWEEN COMPANIES THAT TRANSCENDS BUSINESS BOUNDARIES, TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR CREATING NEW ADDED VALUE, AND LEAD TOKYU GROUP'S SUSTAINABLE GROWTH.

Kazuo Takahashi

President Tokyu Corporation

Other rail companies, too, are beginning to reduce their emissions. Tobu Railway Co., a commuter rail service in the Greater Tokyo Area and an intercity and regional operator in the Kanto region, has said it will run its express services between Tokyo's Asakusa tourist district and the resort town of Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture north of the capital on renewables from today.

East Japan Railway, Japan's biggest railway company, plans to boost the use of renewable energy in its operations to meet its goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions to zero by 2050.