Smart grid testing in Japan underway

Mitsubishi Electric Corp. has set in motion its full-scale testing of smart grid and related commercial systems at its production sites in Japan. The company said it is supporting low-carbon societies by deploying economical and highly-reliable power grids that will allow customers to manage their electricity consumption.The project focuses on the development of robust energy infrastructure that offers continuity in emergency situations, in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

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‘Smart cities’ to rise from Japan disaster

Plans to rebuild many areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake as environmentally friendly "smart cities" are being explored by corporations and municipal governments.

By promoting large-scale projects that include power-generation facilities utilising renewable energy and smart grids, the plans are also meant to create jobs. Some companies and local governments have already started working together on these projects.

Major electronics manufacturer Toshiba Corp has proposed an integrated system, with facilities ranging from power generation and water-treatment systems to "smart metre" next-generation power meters, to some local governments.

An official of the company’s smart community division said, "In the future, (we want) to export technologies created domestically."

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Japan’s smart grid pursuit slow off mark

The term "smart grid" is coming up a lot as the United States prepares to replace its aging electricity infrastructure. While President Barack Obama pledged $3.4 billion in 2009 to spur an early transition to the new distribution grid, Japan isn’t expected to follow anytime soon.

What are smart grids and how are they being addressed in Japan?

Following are some questions and answers about the future technological shift:

What is a smart grid?

A smart grid is a new electricity distribution system that will make greater use of power from both traditional and renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, to stabilize supply and maximize efficiency.

Unlike conventional power grids, smart grids will automatically control supply and demand by monitoring two-way communications between producers and consumers.

This communications network will involve the use of a "smart meter" that estimates both power output and consumption at each household or company. The new technology will tell consumers when electricity demand, and hence prices, are at their highest, inducing them to reduce consumption at these times. It will also provide utilities with data they can use to regulate power supplies and balance output with consumption.

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