From smart grids to smart cities: Japan plays key role


By: SGN Staff

Quick Take: Japan is moving forward aggressively to become a major global player in smart grids and smart cities. As you will read in the story below, it has four major smart city projects, all with a significant smart grid component. But Japan also has dozens of additional smart city initiatives underway around the country. And a robust Japan Smart Community Alliance organization that links industry, academia and policymakers.


Japan was a smart grid laggard until the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Now it is full speed ahead on smart grid projects that will let it substitute renewable energy and demand response in place of electricity from reactors. And on the expansion of smart grids into smart cities. -  Jesse Berst


While Japan has been working on building smart cities since 2010, the earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear plant meltdown pushed those efforts into high gear with multiple trials and projects in a range of  smart grid-related areas, from demand response to EV charging, according to an article in Sustainable Business.


The Japanese government has been pushing initiatives in Yokohama, Toyota City, Keihanna Science City and Kitakyushu, as well as other locations around the country. While the projects certainly are heavy on technologies, the overall intent is to provide a healthy economy, sustainable growth and an environment with a high quality of life for citizens. And citizens are expected to take a hands-on role in smart cities development, as this excerpt outlines:


"Each of these projects is varied and diverse, with some considering energy and others considering EVs. However, the main aim should be to consider the lifestyles of the citizens, which in the end will determine the form the cities should take. Smart cities are not something that should be tackled by just governments and corporations and then presented to residents. The general public must also be actively involved in sharing their own ideas and helping to formulate the cities by throwing their wisdom into the pot."


The Yokohama project recently embarked on a demand response deployment at six large commercial buildings to test the effects of drawing power from storage batteries and energy efficiency measures. Toyota City is examining keeping the lid on power demand increases as multiple EVs are charged, and the project also involves the use of battery storage and an energy management system. Part of the Keihanna project is evaluating the use of parked EVs as storage batteries combined with recycled EV storage batteries to reduce power demand from factories. And Kitakyushu is conducting a dynamic pricing trial with residents as part of its Smart Communities Creation Project.


Updates on these projects are available at the Japan Smart City Portal. The country is sharing the projects and their results through the portal to help city planners elsewhere with their own smart cities work.


Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.

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