PETER M. FANNON
Vice President, Corporate & Government Affairs, Panasonic Corporation of North America
Mr. Fannon manages Panasonicâ€™s Corporate Communications, Brand Marketing, Environmental, Government & Public Affairs, Product Safety & Regulatory Compliance, and Shows & Exhibits groups.Â He participates in technology evaluation and development activities for new products and services, and represents Panasonic in industry, trade, and advisory organizations.
Mr. Fannon was interviewed by Maryruth Belsey Priebe in December, 2010. Editing by Maryruth Belsey Priebe and A. Tana Kantor.
â€œPanasonic has launched a long-term agenda to become the number one green business in the electronics industry by 2018, our companyâ€™s 100th anniversary.â€
And weâ€™re doing that by three steps:
1) constantly improving the energy and eco-efficiency systems in our products,
2) growing our existing energy businesses,
3) and expanding into new energy businesses.
So through those three actions, we believe our company is well positioned to provide products and support for an ever-greener economy around the world.Â We are bullish on the growth of alternative energy, new energy management systems, and all of the pieces that will make and environmentally sensitive economy work well at an improved lifestyle for people around the world.
What components have to fall into place for the green economy to become business-as-usual?
I think forward movement on the smart grid on a global basis gives us all a great reason for real optimism on advancing energy and eco improvements in the energy field.
Many of the pieces to make that happen are already available. In the US, Europe, many parts of Asia-certainly Japan and China-governments are actively participating with industry to set the standards necessary to make smart grid inter-operability work seamlessly and efficiently. This means that a number of technologies wonâ€™t interfere with each other, but relate to and help manage energy in the home, office, school and government.Â Even utilities-those providing energy-will be ultimately able to produce in the most efficient ways, with the most carbon-neutral or no-carbon emissions.
In terms of managing energy, Panasonic is already a well-established player in Japan, and weâ€™re working with a number of partners to develop energy management systems in other parts of the world for home and small office use.
We also make products which create, store, save, and mange energy. In Japan, we launched a fuel cell co-generation product for the home Ã± a 1 kW generator that uses city gas-essentially methane-along with air from the environment. So for a typical Japanese house, with four people, it can provide hot water and heating (air heating and floor heating) to support the family.
But we also make storage batteries for use in the home and in office environments, and those will be just coming into the market this year and next. So those are several ways we crate and store energy.
We have an established business in electric vehicle batteries. Panasonic has been the supplier for the Toyota Prius from the beginning and now supplies Tesla in the US, and Ford (originally through Sanyo, but now through combined Panasonic).Â Our global company supplies EV (Electronic Vehicle) batteries and related systems to many European auto makers as well. There will be more announcements coming in the next 6 months.
Today, a TV uses around 1/3 of the power of the old cathode ray tube sets. Itâ€™s funny, because a lot of people donâ€™t believe these numbers, but they are true. The largest version of the tube television set was 36Ã®.Â The most popular one in the US was made by RCA and consumed 310 Watts-and all it did was show you a very nice standard definition picture with some color with some stereo sound.
Todayâ€™s 50â€ plasma TV, more than twice the screen size, uses less than 100 watts. All of these changes over the last five years have been made by us and by our counterparts and competitors without any prodding-but as part of a voluntary effort to improve the energy efficiency of all the devices that we use in the home.
Weâ€™re making great strides in energy efficiency in day-to-day products. For example, a set top box for cable, satellite, PVR, DVD, or BlueRay player Ã± all of these things typically use 1 watt or less in standby and typically 10-20 watts in maximum use for features that do many, many things differently than any television device could do just barely 10 years ago.
If you had to choose, what has been the most disappointing aspect of the green economy? The most encouraging?
The biggest enemy to forward progress is confusion, which often comes from failure to recognize the end-to-end impact of fundamental change. Itâ€™s not surprising because we are changing long-standing practices of energy generation and distribution, which impacts home operation and business attitudes, which are driven by costs.Â But energy has to sustain performance over the long term, so itâ€™s not surprising that confusion can come. What is important is there be a common baseline for measuring improvements and what changes are needed and how they might be accomplished.
Everyone interested in the green economy and energy efficiency in particular have different views in how to calculate where efficiency should be measured. I think itâ€™s very gratifying that public awareness is so high about the importance of environmental action by individuals in their own homes.
So inside the consumer electronics industry weâ€™re working to create-along with our retail partners in the consumer electronics manufacturing, selling, and recycling chain-ways in which standardized information can be provided so that it is easy to make comparisons in the shop or think about an action youâ€™re ready to take.
Thirty years ago, it may be that government alone could take the steps in these areas, but today, we have a sophisticated public.Â Not just here, but around the world, people are very tuned in with multiple sources of information and guidance. So they are capable of making good sound decisions, typically for economic or product performance reasons. So industry is trying to develop common standards that will make it easier to compare product-to-product, service to service.
One good example, I think, of something that federal government has done, is the Federal Trade Commission. At the urging of the Consumer Electronics Association, and all of us who are members, the FTC initiated a very fast rule-making process to mandate television labels for energy efficiency. They picked a very easy to understand, very common-sense approach that is similar to what people already use on things such as refrigerators.Â While the two pies are completely different in what they do for the home, the common element is an easy way to understand day-to-day and annual consumption.
Itâ€™s a really smart move. And they made sure to work with industry to make it happen in a way that guarantees information thatâ€™s easy to identify and easy to obtain Ã± in the store, online, and in the packaging. Together, I think industry and government can make some smart moves and we hope to go on contributing at Panasonic to those kinds of moves.
We actually demonstrate, in the Eco House at the Panasonic Center on the edge of Tokyo, essentially a zero CO2 emissions lifestyle with no loss of the devices, services and comfort that a family in a developed economy expects. A CO2 zero emissions design is based on improving the energy efficiency of the devices in the home, which make up approximately 30%, and the rest is made up by generating your own power, storing it, and using it over time in your own home with a combination of fuel cell and photovoltaic designs. This is a two story house with all the most modern appliances and equipment, and either a hybrid or an electric car in the garage.
Plus, there are those electric bicycles which really help at the end of the day when youâ€™re heading up the hill home!
What holds the greatest potential for a turnaround?
For almost 15 years now, Panasonic has annually recorded-in great detail-how we acquire materials, as well as manufacture, ship and recycle our products.Â Our reports literally deal with everything from changing valves and metering in factories.Â We look at the design and exterior tightness to ensure that our factories reflect sunlight and minimize the demand on air conditioning, while designing products for ease of de-manufacturing and recycling.
We clean the rain water that collects on our giant facilities, and then reuse almost all of the water thatâ€™s consumed in the manufacturing process.Â We take every step possible to the minimize packaging, as well as the distances in shipping and re-shipping associated with finished products. By engaging with our supply chain, we seek to ensure on-time delivery which minimizes handling, using trucking and logistics that are energy efficient and meet international and local standards.
Our management are judged in their annual reviews on their environmental performance in their respective departments-everything from day to day operations, to the way in which products and business are carried out. We try to make it part of our routine, because we believe that if everything achieves constant improvement over time, that will make things much better much faster than simply focusing on the utilities or transportation alone.
Â Do you think dubious green marketing has tarnished the glimmer of green?
Itâ€™s impossible for every individual to make every calculus in his or her own mind about each product, so if we can come up with sensible guidelines that meet the test of outside scrutiny, including from government, then together industry and government will have gone a long way to helping citizens act and be responsible knowing that the information they are providing is truly valuable and has worth and is not superficial and is not simply dealing with one end of a problem. As long as our actions are transparent and people have a chance to comment, critique, advise, or even salute us for what we do, then weâ€™ll feel good about continuing next steps and making even more improvements.
It is thrilling to see the excitement and energy going into electric and hybrid vehicle development, and the numbers of models and choices often at very reasonable prices. And itâ€™s also fascinating to see the smart grid revolution moving to common standards and easy to use, established interfaces, that is the way in which devices in the grid connect and communicate with each other. Those two steps alone Ã± improvements on transportation power and energy management in buildings and houses Ã± will go a very long way to reducing CO2 emissions, which is one of the key goals everyone has for ensuring a responsible and livable future.