Japan will continue to make an interesting case study in the years up to 2020 as it unbundles a traditional utility-led model to liberalise its electricity system, writes Rose Bundock, digital editor of Metering & Smart Energy International, the sister portal to Engerati.
From this month, new entrants have the chance to register for a slice of the retail electricity market, valued at ¥8.1 trillion (US$65 billion).
All players have between now and April 2016, when restrictions on which entities can sell electricity are lifted, to compile rate and service plans.
While consumers will need regulations to protect them from unclear marketing of deals, this appears to be a genuine move in favour of the end user.
Necessity is also proving to be the mother of invention. Traditional utility businesses such as major player Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) is looking to bundle electricity with other services.
Tepco is in talks with SoftBank and Tokai Holdings - a city gas supplier for the Tokai region - to offer a discount plan for customers spanning electricity, mobile phone and gas services.
Other major utilities KEPCO and Chubu Electric Power Comany are also considering tie-ups with communications providers.
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In island smart grid news, the Kingdom of Tonga in Polynesia has signed up Itron to supply its communication platform OpenWay Riva. Tonga's national electricity utility Tong Power Limited has bought the Itron technology in a bid to bolster network communications across the island, improve revenue protection and help manage customer disconnects and reconnects remotely.
Much has been made over the last decade of the ‘smart metering boom’ and its effect on meter manufacturers, installation and integration companies and smart grid vendors. In fact, IHS has predicted that the 100 million communicating electricity meter milestone will be passed in the near future, bringing with it significant business for these companies.
Two US energy management companies have scored deals this week for their smart water network services. Itron has secured a deal with a municipal water department in Tennessee for its smart water solution. Meanwhile, as the drought continues in the state of California, the City of San Bruno has announced it will adopt a Sensus smart water network in a bid to detect water leaks.
In Northern Europe, four Norwegian power utilities have ordered 50,000 meters from manufacturer Kamstrup for a smart meter rollout. A consortium consisting of energy companies Guldbrandsdal Energi, Valdres Energiverk, Eidefoss and Vang Energiverk have asked Kamstrup to supply a smart metering system that includes meters, communication system, central system and integration.
In the UK, one of the Big Six energy suppliers involved in the UK smart meter rollout has confirmed it has installed 1.5 million units. Gas and electricity supplier British Gas has installed 500,000 units since June 2014, some of which are offering time-of-use tariffs.
In North American news, Canadian utility Hydro-Québec has uncovered smart meter installation problems. In the French Canadian province of Québec, local media report that nearly 25,000 homes have a non-compliant smart meter installation.