A recent story in The New York Times describes the response of Japanese individuals and companies to constraints on electricity after last spring’s tsunami. Damaged reactors and safety concerns have idled 37 of Japan’s 54 nuclear power reactors. An article earlier this spring in the Guardian also described how Japanese businesses and consumers have found many opportunities to curb discretionary energy use.
Already relatively efficient users of electricity (on a per capita basis before the tsunami, Japan used about half the energy as the U.S.), Japanese businesses and consumers have reduced use over the past five months. The extra conservation steps have kept electricity flowing without major brownouts.
Japanese society is often characterized as more socially cohesive than the U.S., with behavior of individuals more constrained by group expectations. Social expectations and norms certainly affect how individuals and organizations use energy. In Japan, if you want to be seen as responsible, you will use energy wisely.
The stories from Japan suggest that 10% or more of energy use really is discretionary. Quality of life may not suffer from relatively small adjustments.
Ideas to consider for your facilities: The story in the New York Times describes changes to indoor air temperatures and aggressive matching of lighting to tasks in businesses, offices and schools. Vending machines need not refrigerate drinks 24 hours a day in every location.