HOME > CSR efforts > Fulfilling our fundamental obligations to society > Environmental Initiatives > Overall of Environmental Initiatives > Environmental Policy / Priority Measures > An Outside Opinion of Our Environmental Initiatives

An Outside Opinion of Our Environmental Initiatives

第三者意見交換会様子

Visiting Associate Professor Mayumi Matsumoto
and azbil Group employees responsible for the environment

The following is an outside opinion on the azbil Group’s environmental initiatives from Mayumi Matsumoto, Visiting Associate Professor, Special Division of Environmental and Energy Sciences, Komaba Organization for Educational Excellence, Faculty of Liberal Arts, the University of Tokyo.

We often hear that global warming carries with it the risk of raising sea level and increasing the frequency and degree of abnormal weather. There is a growing trend among many countries and companies to achieve carbon neutrality, which means having net-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a balance between emitted and absorbed CO2. Major countries around the world have devised carbon-neutral strategies, increasing energy conservation in society as a whole and accelerating the transition to energy not derived from fossil fuels.

Along with the increasing demand for carbon neutrality, ESG investment *1 is also expanding. Major companies all over the world are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the entire life cycle of products and services, from the procurement of raw materials to manufacturing, distribution, use, and disposal. Also, there is a growing need to visualize the CO2 emissions in the product supply chain by using digital technology. The time has come when carbon neutrality is a crucial factor for raising the value of a company.

Since 2021, the prices of crude oil and natural gas have soared internationally as national economies have recovered by implementing strategies for living with COVID-19. In Japan, the price of electricity has reached its highest level in the past five years and gasoline prices have also skyrocketed, damaging industries like transportation and warehousing. Japan has an especially low rate of energy self-sufficiency, about 12%, and imports a large amount of fossil fuel from overseas. The total amount of fossil fuel imports in 2019 was about 17 trillion yen (about ¥2.6 trillion for coal, ¥9.5 trillion for oil, and ¥4.9 trillion for gas). There is an enormous outflow of money abroad to cover the energy costs, and rising energy prices would hurt industry and people’s lives.

These circumstances bring home to us the necessity of introducing an energy management system that centrally manages energy consumption in buildings and factories, controls equipment based on demand forecasts, and minimizes energy consumption.

The azbil Group’s main business areas are advanced automation, building automation, and life automation. In these three areas, the Group is developing business that aims to improve the quality of indoor spaces and productivity at customers’ offices and manufacturing sites and to reduce the amount of energy consumed for that purpose using its automation technology as the foundation.

I had the opportunity to visit the Fujisawa Technology Center, the company’s research and development base, in November of 2021. I was shown an automatic control system that works with a building energy management system (BEMS) developed by the azbil Group, a track record of implementing demand response (DR), and energy-saving technology such as an HVAC control that uses artificial intelligence (AI). Two laboratory buildings are under construction which will serve as core R&D bases for accelerating the development of system solutions and devices that utilize cloud computing and AI. In the new buildings, the azbil Group’s plans to develop cutting-edge automation technology including microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), which is the cornerstone of its sensing technology.

The strength of the azbil Group is the application of its measurement and control technology, which can reduce the energy consumption of buildings, factories, plants, and essential services, and also can make maximum use of existing equipment. Providing technology that helps people work in healthy and productive ways and to live comfortable lives can be said to be a sustainable business model. Since the azbil Group has advanced digital technology, I hope the Group will consider contributing to the establishment of district-wide distributed energy systems as a new challenge. In order to realize a decarbonized society, accelerated efforts on the demand side are necessary. As a part of the decarbonization strategy, the Japanese government has announced a policy of promoting smart cities and microgrids, *2 which centrally manage energy by integrating equipment for renewable energy such as solar panels, wind turbines, storage batteries, and electric vehicles (EVs) within a region.

The movement to establish a society that has distributed energy resources is accelerating in Europe and the United States. For example, the city of Santander in northern Spain (with a population of 180,000 and an area of 40 km2) did a demonstration project for the EU and afterwards built a smart city using sensor networks, developed smartphone applications to provide citizens with a smart parking system, etc. On the other hand, in Japan, there are few businesses that manage distributed energy systems, and the government is discussing measures to encourage new entrants.

I sincerely hope that the azbil Group will utilize its automation technology and energy management technology to help decarbonize various areas of society, strengthen international competitiveness, and achieve sustainable growth.

*1 Selecting and investing in responsible companies, with a focus on the environment, society, and corporate governance factors
*2 An autonomous energy supply network that consists of a unique power network and power supplies. It can be operated separately from the conventional grid.

中央監視室

Central monitoring room

太陽光発電設備

Solar panels


Mayumi Matsumoto, Visiting Associate Professor, Special Division of Environmental and Energy Sciences, Komaba Organization for Educational Excellence, Faculty of Liberal Arts, the University of Tokyo

東京大学松本真由美客員准教授

Profile

  • Visiting Associate Professor, Special Division of Environmental and Energy Sciences, Komaba Organization for Educational Excellence, Faculty of Liberal Arts, the University of Tokyo
  • Director of the International Environmental Economy Institute (IEEI), an NPO
  • Director of the Japan Council for Renewable Energy (JCRE), an NPO

Brief Self-Introduction

Born in Kumamoto prefecture. Graduated from the faculty of Foreign Studies, Sophia University. Specialized in science communication, environment, and energy policy theory. Research themes include “Coexistence of Energy and Local Communities,” “International Comparison of Environmental and Energy Policies,” and “Companies’ Environment-Focused Management Trends (for Decarbonization, SDGs, etc.),” seeking to define the nature of a society that is sustainable from the viewpoint of environment and energy.

While attending university, served as a newscaster, reporter, and director of a TV Asahi news program, and later as a newscaster for world news on “World Report” and other NHK BS1 programs for 6 years. Involved in environment-related NPO activity since 2004. A researcher in a human resources development project in the environment and energy area led by the University of Tokyo since May 2008. Appointed to the current position in April 2013.
While teaching at the faculty of liberal arts, I participate in a wide range of activities such as lectures, symposiums, and writing. Co-authored a book titled “Decarbonization Will Not Stop! Business Tips for Drawing the Future,” which was published in September 2020.
I serve on government councils, including the Renewable Energy Mass Introduction and Next Generation Electricity Network Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee for Natural  Resources and Energy and Green Innovation Project Committee Working Group 1: Green Electricity Promotion Field under the Industrial Structure Council.