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List of goods qualified for Eco-points now out

by Kazuaki Nagata

The government revealed a list of products and services Friday that can be exchanged for Eco-points, a type of currency to stimulate consumption and promote use of energy-efficient goods.

The campaign is boosting replacement demand at electronics retailers as consumers flock to accumulate Eco-points on purchases of so-called green products as designated by the government.

How does the system work and what are the Eco-points worth? Following are some basic questions and answers about the Eco-point system:

How do Eco-points work and how can they be earned?

Eco-points are earned by buying three kinds of government-designated energy-efficient products: air conditioners, refrigerators and TVs.

The points, worth ¥1 each, can be exchanged for three types of goods: coupons and prepaid cards, energy-efficient products, or products that promote regional economies.

More points can be gained for a small fee by handing over old products for recycling and upgrading to a new appliance.

Eco-points can be accumulated until in March 2010.

What can Eco-points be exchanged for?

The government’s list contains 271 products and suppliers of exchangeable articles. Most of the goods are prepaid cards, like East Japan Railway’s Suica cards and bitWallet Inc.’s Edy, or gift coupons issued by major department stores. There are also travel tickets from JTB Corp., Kinki Nippon Tourist Co., Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways.

A total of 109 commerce groups from municipalities across the country have also issued coupons for exchange with Eco-points.

The full list is available at www.env.go.jp/policy/ep_kaden/pdf/090619a-1.pdf but the government plans to release a list of more products or service providers later.

Why are the points being awarded only for air conditioner, refrigerator and TV purchases?

The government is focusing on those appliances because half of total carbon dioxide emissions from households are produced by these three products alone, according to the Environment Ministry.

About 70 percent of the total, including those from the three products, come from home electronic appliances.

Also, the government is planning on ending analog broadcasting by July 2011, so the Eco-point campaign is a good chance to promote televisions compatible with digital terrestrial broadcasting.

How does the government select the products?

Selection is based on government criteria used to rank the gadgets’ efficiency.

The rank, based on a scale of one to five stars, is attached to the product with a label, but Eco-points can be gained only by purchasing gadgets with four or more stars.

The label also provides other information, such as the estimated annual cost of running the device.

How many points can be had for one product?

It depends. For instance, 6,000 points can be earned by buying an air conditioner with a cooling capacity of less than 2.2 kw, but 9,000 points can be gained by buying one rated at more than 3.6 kw.

If old air conditioner is recycled when a new one is bought, this translates into an additional 3,000 points.

But TVs earn more points than air conditioners and refrigerators. A TV purchase can fetch anywhere from 7,000 points for 26-inch and smaller sets, to 36,000 points for the big-screen models.

How can I exchange points?

The government will start accepting applications July 1. The form can be downloaded from the Environment Ministry’s Web site, but paper versions will also be available at post offices and retailers.

Applicants must attach the original receipt and a copy of the product’s warranty to the application form. Those who recycle an old product must attach the recycling ticket, too.

Consumers will be able to try out the application process at the Eco-point Web site (www.eco-points.jp) scheduled to open at the end of the month. But they will still be asked to mail in a hard copy of the documents.

The deadline for applications is next April 30.