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Designing An Alternative Energy Future: How Fukuoka Can Become A Carbon-Neutral City?

Updated: Feb 11, 2019

This article was written by Olga Kokshagina and Uli Göltenbott as a result of the workshop on the same topic that was run during the ISPIM Connects Fukuoka conference in December 2018. Olga is one of the founders of ISPIM's Special Interest Group on Innovation Management Methods for Industry.


Energy transition in Japan is evolving quite fast since Fukushima in 2011. According to EnergyPost, Japan’s dependency on energy imports has climbed to 93 percent and its energy costs have risen drastically. With Japan’s forty-eight nuclear reactors offline, the country began using more coal, gas, and oil to generate electricity, increasing greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, Japan is keen to move solely to renewables. A projection of energy mix in 2050 shows100% transition to renewable energy for all purposes, including electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, and industry.

The growing city of Fukuoka (1.5M) is one of the most popular cities in Japan known for its high quality of life. How can a growing city become a carbon neutral city? How can energy be preserved, energy efficiency increased and energy generated by renewable sources?


To answer these questions, we need to build a common definition on what exactly is a carbon-neutral city; understand current initiatives that the city of Fukuoka has put in place. We will use the C-K method as an analysis standpoint to define what elements constitutes carbon-neutral city and what are the underlying assumptions that were used to define current vision of “carbon-neutral”.

The first step in this thinking process is to breakdown our concept into its fundamental principles. As Elon Musk puts it:

Make sure you understand the fundamental principles i.e. the trunk and big branches before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on it".

In this step we come up with a description of the current way of seeing carbon-neutral cities in a complete and systematic way. This description includes fundamental elements of the object such as energy usage, modes of operation, distribution, energy storage, etc. that without these characteristics, the object is changing its definition (please see Figure 1 for a simplified identity description).

This mapping helps to structure a common view of the innovators and identify important initiatives that contribute to the challenges. For instance, in the east of Fukuoka, a place called "Island city" is allocated as a model city to save and generate energy to be a CO2 zero emission zone. Popular Japanese house developers have built houses in Island city that claim to fulfil these requirements of zero CO2 emission. They use smart houses, home energy management systems, energy sharing in the community. Once mapping and associated knowledge elements including existing initiatives and relevant projects have been identified, each elements can be interrogated to identify other possible scenarios. Of course, multiple identities can be generated depending on experts participating in the process. That is why if you work on the autonomous car at Renault, your identity will be different from the one of Google and you can identify alternatives relevant to your vision and not that of others.

Figure 1. Simplified identity for Carbon Neutral city (contact us to receive a detailed version)

To imagine alternatives, a series of What if questions can be asked to imagine a variety of possibilities (What could be done differently? What if this particular feature is missing?…).

The goal is to build variations at each level (see Figure 2). For example, what if any type of users adapt “close to zero” energy consumption behavior? It can be translated into decreasing demand to day to day energy use. Studies show that energy efficiency measures could cut the demand for energy roughly in half by 2050. If our lifestyle is designed to consume as little as possible, this scenario can become feasible. Or what if we can consume only the energy we generate ourselves? In this prosumer behavior, we become producers of the energy to consume.

At the energy source levels, what if tax reductions and subsidies are cancelled for fossil and nuclear energy? Or what if energy is produced for simultaneous consumption only? One can imagine implementing small-scale electricity systems with defined geographic boundaries that includes power production and power use.

All these alternatives, individually or combined, open up a variety of different possibilities to consider. Certainly, this process does not lead to generate feasible solutions yet, but challenges the dominant view on a particular concept, helps to imagine possible futures, and changes the paradigm. As R. Buckminster Fuller puts it:

You never change things by fighting the existing reality, to change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Figure 2. Shaping alternatives

This idea generation process is only the starting point. To actually build on any of these ideas, we need to explore them further and also develop a better understanding of what is possible. Radical new ideas require developing new understanding of what and how this is possible including finding solutions in the other domains. This step is crucial in the C-K process: once different alternatives are identified, knowledge search beyond the existing fields of expertise should be organised. This knowledge search will first allow exploration of all the identified possibilities and also decide in the future what are promising future scenarios that can be tested and the how they should be developed. This is subject to our next steps.

C-K method was used here to organise exploration of the field by

- Creating a common “workable” definition of the concept

- Expanding efficiently on the spectrum of possibilities.

We continue enriching the map and searching for knowledge useful to design more original and robust ideas. Please reach out to help us enrich this work and transform these ideas into valuable projects in the future.


ISPIM Connects Fukuoka aimed to shed light on how three global challenges - ageing, energy transition & building sustainable ecosystems can be tackled through innovation. As part of this process, Shizen Energy and ISPIM partnered to explore how C-K methodology can be used to create a strategic roadmap for a carbon neutral city. This is the first workshop in a series that will be organised by SIG Innovation Management Methods for Industry on this challenge.

Here we aimed to define what defines carbon neutral city, reveal different bottlenecks and identify possible scenarios. Next steps are to deepen our understanding, explore what is missing to design ambitious moonshot projects and create opportunities on this particular challenge. For this, the workshop will be organised at ISPIM Florence related to energy transition. If you want to be part of the SIG Innovation Management Methods for Industry, are Interested in this work, have great ideas to add to the roadmap, or want to receive a detailed map? Please reach out at


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