Following the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Japanese government and the major utilities experienced a largescale energy shortage due to the shutdown of nuclear power plants and the limitations of the existing grid system. Nuclear energy supplied a large share of Japans energy demand, and following the shutdown, electricity from the west of Japan had to be directed to the eastern regions to meet their demand. But the Japanese grid network is divided by different frequencies, as the regions west from Nagoya, a metropolis in the middle of Japan, run on 60hz while the eastern side runs on 50hz. Limited links and the low capacity of frequency converters between both grid systems were soon becoming a major problem in the interregional power supply. Learning from this experience, Japan is looking at different strategies to increase energy security and disaster resilience.
In this momentum, smart grid technologies became increasingly important for cities and communities to overcome the problems posed by a weak nationwide grid system with questionable disaster resilience capabilities. Smart grid technologies also enable communities to make use of renewable energy technologies more effectively. The recent deregulation of the Japanese energy market, the emergence of alternative energy storage technologies and the adoption of internet technologies in the energy sector lead to a massive transformation of the energy market in the last years and bring many opportunities for the smart grid market.
Harvard Business School Technology and Operations Management TEPCO: A quiet emergence of Smart-Grid in Japan (Digitization), 2017
Power Technology The Resilience Programme: Changing Japan’s Grid, 2018
Historically, Japan was one of the first countries to invest in smart grid research and development: in 2003, Japan founded the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), which manages several smart grid-related projects. In 2014, the Japanese Ministry of Energy launched the National Resilience Programme which funded “independent demonstration projects” in areas such as “electric vehicles for mobility and storage, renewable energy production and storage systems, and energy efficiency optimization”. This initiative will provided $7 billion in funding for these projects over a 3-year period. The projects aim to go beyond smart grids, incorporating approaches to improve industry and business as well as solutions for mobility issues.
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