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Climate Change

Retailer Aeon to use 100% renewable energy at 160-plus Japan malls

Group accounts for almost 1% of nation's electricity consumption

An Aeon mall in Kawaguchi, near Tokyo. (Photo by Makoto Okada)

TOKYO -- Aeon Mall has committed to power its more than 160 shopping centers in Japan with 100% renewable energy by fiscal 2040 by purchasing solar power and generating its own.

This approach differs from Japan's mainstream for cutting corporate carbon dioxide emissions, which involves clean-energy certificates.

The initiative by Aeon Mall -- which alone accounts for 0.2% of Japan's total electricity consumption, using about 2 billion kilowatt-hours a year -- may encourage other businesses here to accelerate decarbonization efforts. Parent company Aeon, Japan's top retail group by sales, accounts for nearly 1% of the country's total.

The shift to solar will begin in 2022. Along with setting up solar panels at its locations, Aeon Mall will sign corporate power purchase agreements (PPAs) -- long-term contracts under which the user directly buys all output from a clean-energy producer. Batteries will also be installed at its shopping malls to ensure a steady flow of power.

Aeon Mall will also turn to community residents. Starting as soon as this year, they will receive shopping points for supplying surplus electricity from their home solar power systems to Aeon Mall via their electric vehicles.

Energy will also be procured from such renewable sources as wind, biomass, hydrogen. The company will consider making investments in the field, such as acquiring land for power generation.

Aeon has signed on to the RE100 global initiative for 100% renewable-energy consumption and seeks to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from its businesses in fiscal 2040. Besides Aeon Mall, the group's supermarkets will also pursue a transition to clean energy.

Aeon Mall also operates malls in China and Southeast Asia.

Other players in Japan's retail sector are also embracing renewables. Seven & i Holdings, the company behind the 7-Eleven chain, began procuring electricity from Nippon Telegraph and Telephone's solar power business in 2021. Convenience store chain Lawson will start receiving solar power generated by its parent, trading house Mitsubishi Corp., in 2022.

For most companies in Japan, clean-energy efforts involve buying electricity with so-called nonfossil fuel energy certificates proving that the power was generated from renewable sources. But many complain that this process is complicated and expensive.

Outside Japan, corporate PPAs are popular. Businesses around the world bought roughly 23 gigawatts of clean energy through corporate PPAs in 2020, according to BloombergNEF -- the equivalent of 23 nuclear power plants.

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