Photo: Rakuten Energy's Yuta Shimazaki (right) helped show Yatsugatake Grace Hotel manager Tomoya Koshio (left) how he could run the hotel using renewable energy only.

Yatsugatake Grace Hotel, situated high in the Japanese Alps, has always prided itself on its breathtaking stargazing tours, its use of local produce in its guest cuisine and the opportunities it provides for travelers to get away from it all and connect with Mother Nature.

Now Rakuten Energy is helping the hotel itself get closer to nature, by empowering it to switch entirely to renewable energy sources.

It’s all part of the company’s Project R100, which over the next few years aims to see many more of Rakuten’s business partners and other local companies shift away from fossil fuels to 100% exclusive use of renewable energy sources.

Eco-friendly tourism in the Japanese Alps

“One of the best things about our hotel is that it has something to offer in all four seasons of the year,” explains hotel manager Tomoya Koshio. “In the winter, however, it can get extremely cold – last year it got down to -28°C, so managing the cost of central heating was a serious challenge.”

Rakuten Energy’s solution was to capitalize on the hotel’s mountaintop location and excellent exposure to sunlight, by using an efficient system of solar panels to power and heat the hotel during the day. To cover the rest of the hotel’s needs, Rakuten Energy provides energy along with an equivalent number of J-Credits, a carbon offset credit certified by the Japanese government. As a result, the hotel is effectively able to run on 100% renewable energy.

“Not only are we looking to save over 1 million yen in annual energy costs, but we also managed to find a solution that suited our nature-focused business philosophy,” explains Koshio. “If this catches on with other hotels and we can make renewable energy a point of special appeal for the region, I think it could boost the local tourism industry significantly.”

Empowering local businesses through renewable energy

Koshio explained that for small organizations like his it is difficult to start renewable energy initiatives, even if they are interested. “Just finding the right information to know where to start can take a lot of time,” he said.

In the case of the Yatsugatake Grace Hotel, it was a former consultant with Rakuten Travel who initially recognized the opportunity. After he was transferred to Rakuten Energy, Yuta Shimazaki returned to his former client with the proposal. “After Mr. Koshio told me about the hotel’s energy situation, I realized that Rakuten Energy was in the perfect position to help,” he explains.

Yatsugatake Grace Hotel is located high in the Japanese Alps.

Yatsugatake Grace Hotel is located high in the Japanese Alps.

Shimazaki says there are many more companies in a similar position. “A lot of corporations in Japan are beginning to embrace environmentally-friendly business practices. But it isn’t enough to change society if only large corporations get on board. We also want to empower small and medium-size businesses around Japan with environmentally-friendly energy initiatives.”

Rakuten Energy will take the Project R100 to the next level when it launches a proprietary platform for trading J-Credits and other “environmental values.” The launch, which is planned for December, will give local companies like Yatsugatake Grace Hotel a market where they can easily buy and sell J-Credits.

While Rakuten Energy’s Project R100 has only just begun, there is already a positive feeling in the air. “We have always run our hotel on three main pillars: Nature, stars and local produce,” says Koshio. “Now we have a fourth: renewable energy.”