Sustainable Energy

In Japan, natural gas and innovation are changing the way homes are powered

In Japan, natural gas and innovation are changing the way homes are powered

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is a crucial part of Japan's energy mix: according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the country is the largest importer of LNG on the planet.

In Japan, one business is looking to harness the power of natural gas and make it an integral part of home life. The ENE-FARM is described by Tokyo Gas as being a residential-use fuel system which is able to "simultaneously produce electricity and hot water using city gas."

The system produces electricity by "extracting hydrogen from city gas and inducing a chemical reaction with the oxygen in the air," with water and heat also produced.

"It can convert (the) chemical energy of natural gas directly to electrical power," Hisataka Yakabe, general manager of R&D at Tokyo Gas, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy. "About half of the chemical energy is converted to electrical energy, and using the heat generated during power generation, hot water is produced simultaneously," Yakabe added.

The system can be used in both detached homes and condominiums, where it can be installed in pipe shafts or similar spaces.

"The concept is that you can lead your normal, comfortable life, you get plenty of power, you get plenty of hot water, but you're still saving energy, you're still helping… society save CO2," Kentaro Horisaka, general manager of Tokyo Gas' Fuel Cell Planning Group, said.

Horisaka went on to state that there were environmental benefits to the system. "In comparison to owning a normal electric and gas system this ENE-FARM will save 1.3 tonnes of CO2 each year," he said.

"That is similar to owning two hybrid cars instead of two gasoline cars, and this is achieved through combined heat and power technology, meaning you generate power on site but you also recover the waste heat," he added. "You can achieve energy efficiency in higher heating value as high as 95 percent."